How are companies using canola protein? In conversation with Merit Functional Foods

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Merit's canola proteins boast a neutral flavor profile that offers excellent solubility and stability over a range of pH levels, claims the company. Image credit: Merit Functional Foods
Merit's canola proteins boast a neutral flavor profile that offers excellent solubility and stability over a range of pH levels, claims the company. Image credit: Merit Functional Foods

Related tags Canola protein

A new entrant to the burgeoning plant-based protein arena, canola protein can improve the taste, texture, and nutrition of everything from protein bars to plant-based ice cream, says Merit Functional Foods, which recently opened a facility in Manitoba to produce high-purity Non GMO canola and pea proteins. FoodNavigator-USA caught up with co-CEO Ryan Bracken to delve into application opportunities.

In most applications, said Bracken, canola protein likely isn’t going to be the #1 protein on the ingredients list, but is “going to be a functional modifier within a plant protein blend – meaning it will not be the predominant protein in high-protein applications, but typically 10-40% of total protein inclusion.

“It works best when used as a complementary protein, especially when blended with a base protein such as pea,” ​he added.

Canola protein in ready to mix and ready to drink beverage applications

Merit’s Puratein canola proteins (which come in three variants: C, HS, and G) – developed using technology patented by partner Burcon - have a clean flavor without beany or vegetal notes. However, their functional properties are also generating interest in categories such as plant-based sports nutrition, said Bracken.

“The high solubility and low water binding of Puratein C helps prevent formulation challenges commonly experienced in the category, such as the inability to create smooth, creamy textures without added gums or hydrocolloids in ready to mix protein powders.

Puratein C is also highly soluble at a wide range of pH levels, allowing formulators to develop ready to mix protein powders with differing flavor profiles, from more acidic, fruity flavors to those on the neutral to alkaline side like chocolate flavors.”

In ready-to-drink beverages, when used together with Merit’s pea protein, the low viscosity of canola protein also allows for increased protein fortification, while its high oil binding capacity provides good emulsification of water and fat, making for beverages with a creamy texture and light color for a more dairy-like experience, he claimed.

Canola protein in protein bar applications

in plant-based bars, which can have “a grittier texture and harden over shelf life​,” said Bracken, canola protein can also enable softer textures.

Puratein C has a unique combination of high oil-binding capacity and low water-binding capacity, which significantly reduces the rate of protein bar firming over time, so the bar remains soft throughout the shelf life. It also has a neutral flavor profile that requires no masking and can deliver the smooth mouthfeel consumers seek.”

Merit’s canola proteins are made with a proprietary process that minimizes color in its finished powders. Image credit: Burcon

Canola protein in frozen desserts and plant-based yogurts

For applications such as plant-based yogurts and frozen desserts where canola protein is being used for fortification, you can add more protein without dramatically impacting viscosity, he added.

In this case ​[frozen desserts], canola protein can provide the whipping capacity to increase overrun… for optimal texture, while its high solubility supports a creamy dairy-like texture and true-to-dairy melt properties.”

For plant-based yogurts, Puratein C (when combined with Merit’s Peazazz pea protein) can also be used to create a smooth texture and reduce viscosity for processing at higher protein fortification levels, he said.

“The typical plant-based yogurt in the market is 1-6g protein per serving.  Our concept can offer up to 10g of plant protein, with the ability to achieve a PDCAAS of 1.0.”

Canola-field-Merit Functional Foods

While canola seeds contains anything between 17-26% protein, developing solvent-free, economically viable ways of extracting a functional protein from the protein-rich cake left after the seeds are crushed to get canola oil, has been a challenge.

However, two key players are now taking high-purity canola protein to market: Merit Functional Foods​ – which opened a 94,000sq ft plant in Winnipeg, Manitoba, last year; and DSM​ – which is gearing up to launch commercial quantities of canola protein isolate at a new facility in Dieppe, France, later this year.

Picture credit:​ Merit Functional Foods, which sources its non-GMO canola from Western Canadian growers

Canola seeds-Merit
Merit uses non-GMO canola seed that is fully traceable back to the Canadian farm of origin. Image credit: Merit Functional Foods

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