Cabbage-based protein facility to propel growth of new plant-based powerhouse
07 Mar 2023 --- As the all-important search for alternative proteins continues, one novel idea is sprouting - the use of cabbages as a plant-based sustainable source of protein. A UK-based farm has developed a method to extract protein from the brassica and is constructing a €38 million (US$40.5million) facility in England funded by Dutch state-controlled investment entity, Invest International.
FoodIngredientsFirst examines how the humble cabbage may prove to be an unexpected source of nutrient-rich, adaptable plant-based proteins.
“Our brassica/cabbage protein will revolutionize the plant-based protein industry,” Simon Naylor, founder of Naylor Nutrition and joint owner of Naylor Farms, tells us. “It is so different from anything else as it focuses on a holistic approach to health, well-being, nutrition, and functionality as an ingredient.”
“Naylor Nutrition will produce three brassica-based protein ingredients – cabbage functional protein gel which can be used in meat analogs, nutritional drinks and ready meals, cabbage fiber for bakery products, blended meats products, pet and equine, and an umami syrup which is a perfect replacement to soy sauce.”
Construction has begun on the facility and Naylor is excited to unlock the potential of cabbages.
“Our brassica protein enables us to utilize the fantastic qualities inside the cabbage plant,” he says. “The scope for the brassica protein really is endless.”
The facility uses a cold press technique to extract proteins from cabbages and brassica, which are then converted into functional ingredients.
Naylor is confident that cabbage proteins demonstrate a huge step forward in the plant-based protein space.
“Previous plant-based protein products have been manufactured as isolates, depleting the absorbability of the protein into the digestive system,” he notes.
“Ours is relatively unchanged from its raw state, thus allowing all the fantastic nutrients inside cabbage and brassicas to be present in all of our key products, including protein.”
Scaling and competitivity
Nutritional benefits aside, Naylor feels that the system used to produce cabbage proteins is sustainable, scaleable and capable of competing in today’s market.
“Our innovative technology is completely scalable for an increasing market as we will place factories close to where the cabbage is grown,” he says.
“This will eliminate the need for protein to be flown around the globe, as it will be produced locally for the market, thereby reducing air miles, pollution, helping to combat climate change and enabling food security for the local area.”
A robust crop
Naylor highlights that the crop itself is “extremely versatile” and “resilient to drought,” unlike pea and soy. It is also easy to grow in high volume.
“Cabbage has very high crop yields – 150 to 200 tons per hectare compared to pea and soy which yields 3-6 tons per hectare – and is grown on a relatively small amount of land when compared to land used for meat production,” he says.
“Cabbage does not need to be irrigated, no forests are chopped down to grow it and it can be grown in a wide variety of areas across the planet.”
Naylor further notes that the ingredients are also allergen-free, which he says will allow them “to appeal to a very broad market,”
“With continued testing we hope to increase the potential of this wonder-product,” he concludes.
Turning a new leaf
Naylor’s facility has drawn praise from the plant-based protein space. Jasmijn de Boo, VP of ProVeg International, supports plant-based initiatives like these.
“We really welcome this new facility which offers the opportunity to produce a healthy, plant-based ingredient from a sustainable and local source,” she tells us, noting how it could provide a route for consumers to move away from meat.
“Cabbage protein can feed into the array of innovative plant-based products that are being developed and will support Europe’s flexitarians in their transition to more plant-based diets.”
“The new method might support a reduction in food waste from the supply chain. It could be a good example of the valorization of plant-based byproducts, making them available for direct human consumption,” she says.
“It looks an interesting and very innovative approach,” adds Javier Berterreche, business development manager at plant-based protein unifier Bridge2Food, noting that “we need to broaden and diversify the sources of proteins, especially looking for reducing food loss and increasing sustainability.”
Berterreche also highlights the sustainability potential of cabbage proteins.
“I think this could be one of the strengths of this project since it’s based on reducing food waste and it’s a clear example of a circular economy. The discarded outer leaves of cabbage, if left on the field, would be a source of GHG, especially methane,” he says.
“Instead, they will be a valuable source of nutrients and functional ingredients. One important aspect will be the energy consumption of the process and the source of this energy.”
However, Berterreche notes that the protein content of cabbages is quite low, which may drive an increase in costs for production.
“The protein content of the raw material is quite low, less than 2 per 100g, so the cost for the extraction and concentration could be high,” he flags.
“Compared to some other plant-based sources of proteins, this could be an important competitive disadvantage. Soy, for example, has around 36 g per 100g, chickpeas 19 g per 100 g, and fava beans 8g per 100g.”
However, Naylor notes that it “has managed to achieve protein levels of 35%-50% in its protein powder and gel.”
Quality of proteins extracted from cabbage remains a factor to consider, he continues.
“There’s a chance to improve the results in case there are some other high value-added products that could be obtained in the process. Besides the protein concentration, another aspect to consider is the quality of the proteins, in terms of amino acids, profile and digestibility.”
On a broad scale, Berterrech points out that success of new plant-based proteins hinges on the demands, tastes and perceptions of the consumer.
“The main challenges for all players in this field are price and consumer acceptance. Flavor and functional properties of the protein concentrates will be critical for their use as food ingredients.”
However, even as cabbage enters the increasingly competitive plant-based protein market, Berterrech notes that the market is hungry for something new.
“Even though the competition could be fierce, especially for a new product, there’s also an increased appetite for new alternatives and innovations,” he says.
“Broadening the spectrum and offering delicious and affordable products, the plant-based protein community is building the future of food and contributing to a more sustainable agrifood system.”
The plant-based space is constantly shifting. Our special report on the topic navigates the latest trends and developments.
By James Davies
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.