Fermentation forward: European consortium to refine bio-purification techniques to reduce plant-based off-notes
15 Oct 2021 --- To optimize the quality of plant-based food products, a new consortium of European food manufacturers, universities and food research institutes has launched a project to develop bio-purification techniques based on fermentation. The project will explore the potential for fermentation to remove off-flavors and other unwanted characteristics in various plant proteins and isolates.
Based in the Netherlands, the three-year “Bio-Purification of Plant Proteins” project is backed by a grant from the Dutch government, through its Top Sector Agri & Food (TKI Agri & Food) initiative.
It aims to develop bio-purification strategies – processes of eliminating off-flavors, anti-nutritional compounds and phytoestrogens from plant proteins – while determining the strengths and limitations of such techniques.
“To do this, the project will draw on knowledge of how fermentation can remove undesired components from already existing technologies within the consortium and the wider industry,” states the consortium.
Taking fermentation forward
Fermentation has been used for millennia to create foodstuffs such as yogurt, bread and beer. Today, these biological mechanisms are used in a range of natural solutions, which have expanded to include fermented soy for preventing heartburn, heat-stable probiotics in tea and amino acid-rich yeast protein.
Fermentation can be used to counter certain compounds in plant-based proteins that can cause unpleasant flavors in end products, such as hexanal from legume-based proteins, which produces a noticeable “beany” flavor.
“It can be very difficult – if not impossible – to completely eliminate these unwanted compounds using conventional food processing approaches such as filtration or chemical processing,” outlines the Dutch consortium.
“Moreover, the extensive use of chemical additives doesn’t really match up with the view of plant-based food as a natural, healthy and sustainable option.”
Using fermentation to meet future food protein needs is already widely recognized as the most effective solution to feed a growing planet. Over the last year, the process has been trialed by other industry pioneers to convert industrial carbon dioxide emissions into high-grade proteins for human and animal consumption.
Last summer, NovoNutrients made moves to scale its proprietary fermentation process that uses industrial carbon dioxide emissions, cheap hydrogen and naturally occurring microbes to create high-grade fermentation-based proteins for human and animal consumption.
Bridging industry with academia
TKI Agri & Food is one of nine “Top Sector” organizations established by the Dutch government to stimulate innovation and business opportunities in sectors where the Netherlands is most active.
The Bio-Purification of Plant Proteins Consortium includes food research company NIZO, GeneralMills, Glanbia Ireland, IFF, Ruitenberg Ingredients, DMK/DOC, Bel, Wageningen University and Research, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and HAS University of Applied Sciences.
Plant-based powers forward
Innova Market Insights’ recently unveiled “Top Ten Trends for 2022” points to the plant-based arena maintaining its hold as industry’s “canvas for innovation.”
The UK’s Vegan Society predicts the market for plant-based milk alternatives will grow by around 17% per year, between 2020 and 2025, while consumption of vegan cheese is set to increase by 13% per year.
Featured on the show floor of the recently culminated Anuga 2021, vegan brands entering the market this year are branching out into new cuisines with launches such as grilled Middle Eastern meats, Asian satays and the Mediterranean palate.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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