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Next Generation Plant Protein

Next Generation Plant Protein

Plant-based foods have evolved from functional replacements for meat and dairy to products that mimic the taste, texture and aroma of meat. This has expanded the sector’s appeal to flexitarian consumers, engaging with people who are making a conscious decision about food.

Important updates include identifying new protein sources, like fava bean and lupin, and better isolates of existing protein sources, such as pea with reduced ‘beany’ notes. Innovation has concentrated on sensory product attributes and getting protein content in the same range as the animal-based items being replaced. The overall nutritional profile of the finished product has received less attention, meaning that many are high in fat or salt.

The next phase of innovation in the sector is poised to deliver ‘the best of both worlds’: products with a superior taste experience that also provide optimal nutrition.

To achieve this next level of development, food makers still face a series of hurdles. Ingredient suppliers need to enhance the extraction process to meet the taste and nutritional requirements of consumers, finding new methods to extract plant proteins with processes that don’t introduce large amounts of salt.

Customised ingredients that provide functionalities needed for different categories, from dairy to specialised nutrition, will help the development of more plant-based options.

Traditional crops for plant-based foods, like soy and wheat, could be elevated with the development of ingredients that boast higher protein content, better amino acid profiles, reduced off-flavours and proteins that are more accessible to chemical or mechanical modification.

Meanwhile, many companies rely on twin screw extrusion to create texturised plant proteins. Opportunities for innovation in this area consist of improvements to extruders, novel methods such as shear cell technology and 3D printing.

As technical developments continue apace, what does the future hold for innovation in alternative proteins? Join FoodNavigator and an expert panel to find out.

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