Alternative protein made from brewer’s spent yeast scales up production

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

The protein will be able to act as a substitute for eggs. Image Source: Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images
The protein will be able to act as a substitute for eggs. Image Source: Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images

Related tags Protein Egg alternative protein Fermentation

A new alternative protein made from brewer’s spent yeast has scaled up and will now transition to full production. The protein, which is made by the EGGcited consortium and coordinated by NIZO, can act as a substitute for egg and dairy, and can replace E-numbers such as methylcellulose in plant-based proteins.

The project, coordinated by NIZO and established in 2021, extracts ingredients from brewer’s spent yeast (a side-stream from the beer brewing industry). These are then used as alternative proteins. The mild processing of the extraction limits the use of heat treatments, which is beneficial for the product’s functionality.

There were some questions around the implications of this for food safety, and these concerns were made paramount during production.   

During the project, the extraction process, which was developed by ingredients company Revyve, was upscaled to semi-industrial levels capable of producing hundreds of kilograms of ingredients in each batch. This took place in the NIZO pilot production facility in Ede, Netherlands. After this, it is transferring to full production, and will be commercially available by the end of 2023.

A barman’s leftovers

In the vital search for replacements for animal protein, one of the key components is finding sources which don’t use up a lot of land or resources. Proteins originating from the by-products of industries are perfect for this, as they do not take up other resources and even do something useful with what would otherwise be waste.  

That’s where brewer’s spent yeast comes in. Brewer’s spent yeast is a by-product of the brewing industry, an ingredient that often goes to waste if it isn’t taken advantage of. But it makes a fantastic alternative protein.

Brewer’s Yeast is readily available​,” a spokesperson for the EGGcited consortium told FoodNavigator, “in Western Europe alone there is around 30,000 tons of BSY (brewer’s spent yeast) being produced each year. Most BSY is currently going to animal feed and being sold for a much lower price than the cost of growing fresh yeast, which makes it a very cost-effective feedstock​.”

Yeast as an ingredient is well-perceived which adds to the appeal of the protein. “Yeast is a widely accepted ingredient by consumers, who recognize it from beer, wine and bread. For vegan and flexitarian consumers yeast is even more well known, as yeast extract and nutritional yeast are very common ingredients in plant-based products​.”

So what’s the process of turning it into an alternative protein? “The first step is to remove any impurities​,” the spokesperson told us, “such as beer, sugars and plant material from the brewing process, from the feedstock to ensure a good taste profile.

Once having a clean yeast, a mechanical process is used to break the cells (like milling) into small fragments. Using simple separation processes, proteins and fibers with high functionality can then be separated (solvents, harsh chemicals or enzymes are not being used)​.”

Loads of eggs, no chickens in sight

The protein has a number of specific uses. “They are versatile ingredients with many technical applications​,” the spokesperson told us.

Typical examples are the use as a binder in a vegan patty and to improve texture in vegan whole cuts, egg replacement in vegan mayonnaise, replacement of additives (E-numbers) in fried product​.”

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