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How canola protein is shaping the future of plant-based innovation

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The complementary plant protein source that unlocks new opportunities for baked goods, lifestyle nutrition, dairy alternatives, and beyond

There’s soy, pea, and brown rice. Or perhaps it’s potato, chickpea, oat, barley, pumpkin seed, wheat, corn, or any of the other emerging plant protein sources.

When it comes to plant protein, formulators have – to put it lightly – a lot of choice.

To compete in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, plant-based products must meet the high taste, texture, and nutrition benchmarks that dairy- and animal-based products have set.

Plant-based foods have been around for many years, but over time, the consumer base has significantly grown, and with that growth has come increased expectations and the desire to enjoy plant-based products without trade-offs. 

The bar has been set high, and it’s time for the plant-based world to embrace the next generation of functional plant protein ingredients. That’s why Merit Functional Foods is excited to bring non-GMO canola protein – the complementary functional protein source – to the world. The functionality, taste, and nutrition factors of Merit’s line-up of Puratein®​ canola protein set it apart, especially when used as an adjunct protein with a base protein ingredient such as pea.

Why do we refer to Merit’s canola protein as “functional”? Well, one of the hurdles in many categories such as high-protein bars and ready-to-mix (RTM) protein powders is delivering on taste and texture. Canola’s high solubility offers a unique softening effect on bars, and a smooth creamy mouthfeel with dairy-like taste and boosted nutrition in RTM protein powders.

Nutritionally, canola protein has meaningful levels of branched chain amino acids like methionine that are required to hit that coveted 1.0 PDCAAS score and “complete protein” claim, and an amino acid profile which helps fill the missing gaps of many other plant protein sources’ profiles, which is key to optimizing nutritional impact.

Why canola?

We know what you’re thinking: canola protein? We all know about canola oil – beloved by chefs and bakers. But limiting the potential of canola to just oil is missing perhaps the biggest opportunity to turn the plant-based industry on its head: using the protein derived from the canola seed to overcome the functionality and nutrition challenges that hinder the plant-based movement’s momentum.

Past attempts at extracting canola protein have resulted in qualities like undesirable color and subpar taste, which have prevented canola from becoming a renowned protein source. At Merit, however, we knew there were functionality benefits inherit to canola protein that could revolutionize the plant-based market, and we committed to improving the taste and color issues this protein source faced.

Our proprietary membrane filtration process removes these barriers and impurities, resulting in high purity, 90% protein, taste-forward, uniquely soluble, and highly functional new protein source. Better yet, canola protein from Merit is 100% sustainably sourced in Canada, with our production facility located within a 350km radius of where the raw material is grown, which means less miles are traveled from farm to facility, making it a better choice for the environment.

Canola protein opens new doors for plant-based innovation. Within this article, we’ve compiled some of the most promising categories and high protein applications that this novel protein source is set to revolutionize.

Complete Plant Protein Bars

Dairy-based proteins such as whey and casein are common ingredients in protein bar formulation, and for good reason: they’re complete proteins and impart favorable textures. However, as plant-based protein carves out its space in the category, manufacturers can achieve similar results in entirely plant-based alternatives by using canola protein.

Puratein®​ C canola protein offers extremely high purity, over 90% protein, and excellent solubility in bar applications with protein levels comparable to dairy-based proteins. But perhaps the most attractive feature of Puratein®​ C in this application? In tests, bar formulations with pea protein and Puratein®​ C stayed significantly softer over time versus bars made with pea protein alone, delivering an experience that consumers can get behind.

Ready-to-Mix Protein Powder

Plant-based protein powders typically are easy for consumers to take on the go, but “plant-based” has historically been synonymous with being clumpier, grittier, and more vegetal tasting than dairy-based options. Canola protein can shake up that notion: when used in combination with Merit’s Peazazz®​ pea protein, Puratein®​ C canola protein is the pathway to both better nutrition and better taste, with a smoother mouthfeel to match.

Puratein®​ C is highly soluble, so formulators can achieve a silkier mouthfeel without added gums and thickeners. And all of this occurs while reaching new heights for plant-based protein content: concepts made with a pea and canola protein blend offer up to 25g of plant protein per 32g serving!

Dairy Alternatives

With canola protein, it’s now possible for plant-based alternatives to recreate the taste experiences that traditionally define dairy applications. Puratein®​ HS canola protein delivers low viscosity and high solubility across the PH range, enabling formulators to eliminate flavor modifiers, binders, and stabilizers from their products, while boosting protein content.

Texture is critical to dairy, and protein blends that incorporate canola protein are the key to matching the standards of dairy applications. The high oil-binding capacity of canola protein when used in combination with the high water-binding capacity of Merit’s Peazazz®​ pea protein results in better textures for plant-based cream cheeses, yogurts, frozen desserts, and more.

Vegan & Gluten-free Baked Goods

Canola presents an opportunity to replace functional animal-derived proteins such as egg in baked goods. Eliminating these ingredients can be challenging, largely because egg has whipping, emulsification, gelation, and other properties – responsible for the craveable textures that we all love – that make it a vital ingredient for bakers.

Consumers seeking delicious vegan baked goods that are also gluten free have less choice, as gluten-free applications tend to rely heavily on egg albumen to make up for the lack of highly functional gluten. As such, there are few gluten-free options that are 100% plant-based and that deliver on taste, texture, and nutrition.

When looking for egg alternatives, bakers finally have a new option with Merit’s Puratein®​ C canola protein. It delivers the whipping and structure building of an egg, making it a valuable tool for formulators. From meringues to high-protein pancake mix to egg-free chocolate chip cookies and beyond, canola protein can unlock opportunities for better vegan baked goods with a premium sensory experience.

Canola protein expands the boundaries of what is possible for plant-based innovation, and that’s critical as it sets the tone for the future of the food and beverage industry. SPINS retail sales data​ released in April 2021 indicated that grocery sales of plant-based products that directly replace animal products grew 27 percent over the previous year.

Plant-based is here to stay, and Merit Functional Foods is here to propel category growth – pure and simple. The Puratein®​ canola protein​ line-up offers formulators non-GMO, 90% purity, North America-based options, and scalable supply to meet their increasingly diversified needs.