Meala’s activated protein platform replaces methylcellulose and artificial fillers, boosting sensory attributes
20 Sep 2022 --- Israeli start-up Meala FoodTech is breaking new ground in cleaning up labels in meat analogs using vegetable protein. Meala’s platform aids the development of functionally activated proteins designed to replace 1:1 methylcellulose and other hydrocolloid and gums widely used in meat replacements as binding and gelling agents.
The company’s proteins “vastly improve the texture of meat alternatives to mimic the organoleptic qualities of real meat,” it says.
Challenges in formulating plant-based
While the plant-based category continues to gain momentum, raising the clean label standard and mouthfeel of products can be challenging for food formulators.
Currently, meat alternatives typically contain a long list of ingredients, some with complex chemical names unfamiliar to consumers. This renders them “ultra-processed” products and risks rejection. One of the more popular of these is methylcellulose.
Methylcellulose (food additive E461) is a water-soluble polymer chemically modified from natural cellulose. It appears in a broad scope of meat, dairy, and egg analogs as a thickener, emulsifier, binder, stabilizer and gelling agent. It gels when exposed to heat, giving a more meat-like sensation but returns to its viscous state when cooled.
As plant-based proteins have low water retention capacity and can’t bind, hydrocolloids such as methylcellulose are essential.
Hitting the clean label spot
Most meat alternatives on the market contain vegetable protein (generally soy) combined with water, methylcellulose, additional stabilizers, flavors, colors and fat and, at large, fail to meet the clean label standards of today’s consumers.
“If you break down the ingredients list of a real meat burger, its composition will be meat, fat, some carbohydrates, spices, salt and pepper,” explains Hadar Razmovich, CEO and co-founder of Meala.
“Our vision is for plant-based alternatives to sport a similar short list of simple, recognizable ‘home kitchen’ ingredients while delivering the same full-bodied flavor and texture of real meat.”
Meala’s solution is produced using naturally occurring biocatalysts, enabling it to function as an exceptional methylcellulose replacer. Its platform works with a versatile range of plant proteins, creating from them a stable hydro-gel when heated but without changing its behavior when cooled. The company says its platform can easily integrate into CPG products through existing manufacturing lines.
“In lab trials, our product demonstrated superior water retention capabilities and gelation properties,” asserts Liran Gruda, CIO, chef, and co-founder of Meala.
“It exhibits a more fat-like quality when infused into meat analogs, tendering a juicier and more succulent bite. Meala is an all-encompassing solution that can replace not only methylcellulose but a system of commonly used stabilizers. It improves texture in meat analogs, with no aftertaste yet a nicely ‘polished’ label.”
First target: alternative meat
Meala’s products will appear on an ingredient panel simply as a protein, such as pea or soy, and make up roughly 4% of the end product.
The company reveals that its protein has already passed proof-of-concept trials in plant-based burgers, kebabs, dumplings and similar meat analogs manufactured for alternative meat producers and foodservice. Meala will focus on this sector before expanding to alternative dairy, fish, and egg products.
Amir Zaidman, chief business officer of The Kitchen FoodTech Hub, says he is “excited about Meala’s B2B platform and its possibilities for plant-based brands. We believe this can be a giant step in making plant-based foods the standard.”
Edited by Elizabeth Green
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