Food Vision Asia 2016

David seeks Goliath to make nutrient-rich yeast protein for the poor

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

David seeks Goliath to make nutrient-rich yeast protein for the poor

Related tags Food vision asia Nutrition

In a country where more than 120m malnourished children depend on a school lunch programme for their nutrition, India would benefit most from a form of protein which is dirt cheap to produce, and just as importantly, is suitable for a vegan diet. 

Don McLellan, an Australian entrepreneur, thinks he can provide exactly what is needed. 

I’ve got this feeling that what we have is so, so good for countries like India​,” he says. 

I’ve read that there are 16m homeless children in India who get a few grams of protein a day in their lunches, which costs governments something like 30 cents a child. I could supply the same amount of protein for a fraction of the price—though I’m not saying I could take on the whole school food operation​!.”

McLellan, through his company AFC Yeast, owns the intellectual property behind a means of manufacturing cheap, high-quality yeast protein from an ethanol byproduct.

Yeast is an excellent natural, non-animal source of nutritional protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as a flavouring extract and enhancer. 

Recently, yeast cell wall components, which are byproducts of yeast extract production, were found to have substantial immunostimulant and polysaccharide-based fat simulation properties.

But two factors have held back the development of yeast protein as a widespread functional food: the high cost of producing food-quality primary yeast; and the poor and variable quality of byproduct yeast from the brewing and distilling industries.

Through his partnership with a leading Australian continuous fermentation researcher, McLellan has been marketing a process that can produce large volumes of high-quality, human food-grade yeast that is rich in protein at minimal cost.

Our product could be used for a whole range of yeast and vegetable proteins that have now been taken over by the commercial soy industry​,” he says. 

It’s certainly innovative, it’s globally sustainable and it’s inexpensive. As countries target malnutrition, it’s a wonderful way of getting high-quality protein at low cost, and we are sure that either a government or a large food corporation will pick up this process from us​.”

But first, he needs to open the right doors and find the right sets of ears. As a “tiny speck​” of a company looking to attract global-brand clients, the task has been challenging, but he says he is reassured that the “tremendous advantages​” of his product, as well as its uniqueness, will win out.

Innovation is driven by the experts in their particular field, and big businesses sometimes rely on people like us who know our subject inside out​,” he says. Moreover, it is unlikely that anyone else will approach this technology in the future.

AFC Yeast’s process was developed by David McLennan, who holds patents in continuous fermentation and lectured on the subject at Sydney University. 

However, continuous fermentation is no longer taught at universities, so the scientists in this day and age don’t know anything about it​,” says McLellan, who will be outlining the technique as part of a discussion on the sources of innovation at Food Vision Asia 2016 in Singapore next week. 

Food Vision Asia will be the first time that this professional forum, which has become established over four years in France, and debuted in Chicago last year as Food Vision USA, will take place in this region. 

It’s two-day schedule​ of debates, discussions and presentations will encourage interaction, networking and the exchange of ideas between food and nutrition industry leaders from across Asia and around the world.  

“Our programme will investigate opportunities for collaboration across global geographies,” says events development director Christina Wood.

For more information on Food Vision Asia, visit


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