Research into vegan alternatives to animal-based proteins underway
Campden BRI has begun research into developing techniques to help the food industry produce cost-effective protein-rich ingredients from plants.
Ingredients research team leader, Tiia Morsky, who is leading the project, said:
"The rise in veganism and flexitarian diets requires products to be free from animal-based ingredients. The food industry is responding by seeking to develop or reformulate products with plant-based protein ingredients, but this is no easy task. Manufacturers can become confused about which plant-based proteins are available to them, which are most suitable for their product and how they will function during new product development."
As a precursor to the technical research, Campden BRI surveyed members of the food and drink industry to establish what their biggest challenges were when using plant-based proteins in their products. Common responses included concerns over protein content, quality, increased ingredient or processing costs, longer ingredients lists and the potentially unpleasant taste of plant-based proteins. However, protein functionality was their overriding concern.
"Protein functionality plays a key role in product development and consumer appeal. Egg, for example, is a unique multi-functional ingredient that is used for aeration, emulsification, enriching, colour, shine, and structure formation. Replacing this ingredient is, understandably, difficult for manufacturers. However, our work has found pulses - such as peas, beans and lentils – display great functional properties with significantly higher foam expansion and foam volume stability when compared to egg white proteins."
The research will compare different processing techniques and parameters, such as equipment, time and temperature to understand the impact they have on yield and protein functionality. The project then aims to optimise the nutritional value and technical performance of these ingredients – providing manufacturers with more plant-based protein options.
Common sources of plant proteins are pea, soy, and gluten, but these come with concerns over allergies, impact on flavour and sustainability. Lesser-studied plant-based alternatives therefore have promising potential as alternative protein sources.
"We’re already looking into protein derived from microalgae and chickpeas. We chose microalgae as it is a relatively new ingredient that has potential as an alternative protein source for various food products. Chickpeas were chosen for their wide availability and because they scored well in our survey of consumers, which provided us with an insight into how willing consumers are to consume plant-based proteins and what drives or deters them from consuming these foods. Recently we also held a vegan seminar. With veganism so high on the agenda, it’s no surprise that it was a popular event. A hundred industry representatives attended, allowing us to gain further insight into what consumers want and what the industry needs."
Over the next two years the project will investigate different processing methods and assess more plant-based ingredients to determine how they perform in meat and dairy alternatives and bakery products.