It’s a fair question, says Samah Garringer, VP, protein for the future at DSM, which has teamed up with Avril Group to launch commercial quantities of CanolaPRO canola protein isolate extracted from specific varieties of Non GMO rapeseed at a new facility in Dieppe, France, to a global audience in early 2022.
“Canola is one of the best sources of protein from a nutritional and functional perspective, if it’s extracted in a way that preserves the protein quality, but the yield is not the same as soy, it’s 22, 23, 26% protein [whereas soybeans have 32-38% protein]
“The process is also important, we wanted to have a solvent-free, natural, non-GMO product, so the challenge was to get the right quality, to get the right yield, and to get to a commercially viable process, and that has taken time,” said Garringer, who previously spent several years at Canadian firm BioExx, which was unable to successfully commercialize canola protein, and filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2013.
A commercially viable process
Fellow Canadian firm Burcon also spent years trying to commercialize canola protein before teaming up with Merit Functional Foods (click HERE) to finally bring products to market, so it’s been a long time coming, she acknowledged.
“DSM started a few years after BioExx, but has been able to get a better quality product, the right yield, the right technology to develop a commercially viable process and product and a strong patent portfolio.”
She added: “The seeds go through low temperature crushing and you are left with a [protein and fiber-rich] cake where the proteins are not denatured. Then we use an aqueous process, with no solvents, to extract the protein and preserve its nutrition and functional properties [see box], and then we dry it.”
Nutrition and functionality
So what’s special about CanolaPRO?
From a nutritional perspective, CanolaPRO has an attractive amino acid profile, with a PDCAAS score of 1, a good DIAAS (protein quality and digestibility) score due to its high solubility and bioavailability (better than soy), with functionality very close to whey and egg protein, claimed Garringer.
It also has good foaming and emulsification capabilities, a light, neutral color and flavor without bitterness, astringency or grittiness, that works well in combination with other proteins in a wide variety of applications from plant-based cream cheeses and milks to pasta, snacks, sports nutrition products, and protein beverages. Longer term the company is also looking at medical nutrition and infant formula.
Meat and dairy alternatives
Right now, the biggest areas of opportunity are in meat and dairy alternatives, where CanolaPRO works well in combination with other proteins (owing to its more premium price tag it would not be the #1 protein a plant-based burger for example, but delivers extra juiciness and functional qualities when combined with pea, for example).
“CanolaPRO is not a bulk protein, but if you want to make a soy-free-burger with pea and canola, it will have a better mouthfeel, and you'll have a juicier product. Also, if you freeze the burgers, and then thaw them, if you’ve got CanolaPRO in there you retain more of the moisture.”
It also works particularly well in plant-based cheeses owing to its elasticity, and owing to its solubility, it works well in beverages across a wide pH range (unlike some other plant proteins), she said.
‘My job at DSM is to build a protein platform, starting with canola’
Food brands are excited about CanolaPRO first and foremost for its nutritional, functional and sensory qualities, she said. But they also like the fact that it’s non GMO, non-allergenic, and is extracted from something (canola meal/cake) that’s currently a low-value product that goes into animal feed.
If you extract the protein isolates you can still use the remaining meal for high-fiber animal feed, she claimed. “You don’t need to devote acres more arable land to growing a new crop. It’s already grown in large quantities.
“My job at DSM is to build a protein platform, starting with canola, which has the potential to be really big, but we’re not stopping there. We intend to be a serious player in the market.”
According to its GRAS notice (to which the FDA has no objections), DSM’s canola protein isolate has a minimum protein level of 90%. To extract it, rapeseed press cake is mixed with an aqueous salt solution and the insoluble material is then removed by filtration or centrifugation. The pH of the remaining solution is adjusted with citric acid and ascorbic acid and the residual fat and precipitates are removed using a membrane filter press or centrifugation.
The resulting solution is then concentrated and washed using an ultrafiltration and diafiltration step. The filtration step concentrates the protein and removes potential impurities, including polyphenols, phytate, and glucosinolates. The protein is then spray dried.