Water lentil milk… a new option in the plant-based dairy case?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Parabel USA
Picture: Parabel USA

Related tags Parabel plant-based protein

A new option could soon be available in the burgeoning plant-based milk category utilizing the protein-packed ‘water lentil,’ a free-floating seed-producing micro aquatic plant (also known as duckweed and Lemna/Lemnaceae).

The patent-pending milk has been developed by Florida-based Parabel USA, which secured a ‘no objections’ letter from the FDA affirming the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of its water lentil ingredients in 2018.

Parabel chief technology officer Peter Sherlock said: “We are all elated to have achieved this breakthrough innovation. Our lentil milk is similar in color to regular milk and captures the extraordinary, high quality protein and mineral benefits of water lentils while containing no allergens.

“The milk froths and foams effectively. This innovative addition also retains the same high level of sustainability as the rest of our product range.”

We believe we will be adding value

The milk is ‘white’ [rather than green like water lentils] “because it’s a soluble part of our product stream and it’s just the protein so it doesn’t taste of anything, it’s just the protein​,” marketing manager Cecilia Wittbjer fold FoodNavigator-USA.

“The formulation ​[of the milk] is confidential, but since the protein is soluble, it comes out like a milk straight from the process. We don’t need to add much apart from water.”

Asked how the nutritional profile of the water lentil milk might compare to other plant-based milks, she said: “The nutritionals are not set in stone yet but considering the quality of our protein and the considerable amount of calcium and iron in the crop, we believe we will be adding value to existing options.

“The sustainability of the crop is also something consumers like to align themselves with.”

Parabel water lentil milk glass

Asked how much interest Parabel has had from potential partners in commercializing a water lentil milk, she said: “We have had a lot of interest from the industry in a white soluble protein ever since launching LENTEIN and we are considering different options going forward. It’s minimally processed and non GMO, just fresh water lentils, the soluble peptides.”

She added: "We have patents for all our processes – making protein concentrates, isolate (white and green versions) and now the milk. They cover the use of water lentils (Lemnaceae) in making the above products. The milk is derived from the whole and not formulated from a protein concentrate or isolate."

‘The amino acid profile is similar to that of whey protein’

Water lentils - which double their biomass in 24 - 36 hours and can be harvested every day - have obvious advantages over other plant protein sources in that they grow incredibly rapidly and can be harvested in raceways (open-air ponds similar to those in which algae is grown commercially – although the water lentil is not​ a type of algae) all year around, said Parabel, which is finalizing its second farm, increasing the capacity for LENTEIN plant protein to 3,500 MT per year.

Speaking to us last year, the company said: “The protein in LENTEIN is similar to that of an animal protein, which is unheard of in the plant protein category. LENTEIN contains levels of Essential Amino Acids and BCAAs comparable to whey, higher than other plant proteins including soy, and has a PDCAAS of .93.”​

Parabel, which makes protein flour, concentrates and isolates from water lentils, is working with makers of protein supplements, pasta, noodles, bakery and snacks, said Wittbjer. “The most important benefit for them ​[potential partners] has been the amino acid profile, which is similar to whey protein, which is unusual for a plant protein."​

Lentein harvested cropped

The world's smallest, free floating, flowering plant, the water lentil grows and reproduces faster than any other leafed plant. While it flowers, fruits and seeds, the water lentil has adapted to cloning as a favored means of reproduction - reproducing itself continuously.

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