Pea protein pushes forward with tech developments in protein enhancement and emulsifying abilities
22 Jun 2022 --- Food-tech advancements this year are advancing pea protein’s performance, with seed breeding specialist Equinom announcing its AI-solution to boost the crop’s ability to deliver desirable traits optimized for food applications including high protein content.
In other moves, Pressure BioSciences reveals a new shear technology to blend pea with dairy proteins in a fully emulsified hybrid milk suspension – overcoming a historic challenge in plant-based drink formulation.
These new developments come at the heels of a booming year for pea protein. Notably, Cargill has strategically expanded its RadiPure pea protein in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa (META) and India to meet consumer demand. In Canada, Roquette inaugurated the world’s largest pea protein factory en route to scaling “Silicon Valley of plant protein”.
According to Innova Market Insights, pea protein penetration is more than double in the plant protein market in the US compared to the rest of the world and “keeps up its growing attraction in the industry” for its new product developments.
Breaking records in yellow pea protein content
Israeli food-tech company Equinom has revealed it has created a yellow pea variety that delivered a minimally processed pea protein ingredient - boasting a “record 75% protein content” – breaking its previous record of 70%, which is currently ready for commercialization.
To achieve this, Equinom bred new varieties of yellow peas using its AI-based Manna technology platform, which identifies desirable traits for food applications in the genetic structure of seeds and predicts the best cross-breeding matches to yield better varieties – without genetic engineering.
“Equinom is working closely with food companies and CPG partners to determine the best way to communicate the use of the ingredient on-pack,” Galit Feinreich, chief marketing officer at Equinom, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“In addition to aligning with partners on how the ingredient is listed on the nutritional panel, Equinom will work with partners on claims around the larger value proposition and sustainability improvements that occur with the use of Equinom Pea Protein (EPP).”
In addition to the high-protein content, EPP offers food functionality such as emulsification, foaming and gelation of a pea protein isolate but with the high solubility and light color of a concentrate, along with the lower production costs and sustainability benefits that come with minimal processing.
EPP also offers additional benefits beyond those found in commercially available isolates including high fiber and significantly less sodium – a residual from sodium hydroxide used in wet processing of pea protein isolates.
“Our technology and cross-breeding approach can be applied to all crops, but our focus has been pulses and legumes because they are such an efficient plant-based protein source,” highlights Feinreich.
“In addition to pea, we’ve also successfully developed a high-protein, non-GMO soy, and we’re currently working to develop Equinom Soy Protein with enhanced nutrition and less processing,” she notes.
“We’ve also seen success with sesame in the past – we previously developed an optimized sesame variety to customer specifications in under five years that could be machine harvested instead of hand-hulled, enabling local farming and production. We also have other crops in development including chickpea, mungbean, cowpea and fava.”
Emulsifying plant-protein homogeneity
Creating cost-effective and sustainable food alternatives that appeal to the expectations and preferences of global consumers has pushed researchers to examine many alternative protein enrichment sources, including the use of almonds, oats, soy and coconuts.
Unfortunately, many of these protein sources lack the creaminess, texture, sweetness or other attributes that drive consumer acceptance. The blending of plant and dairy components to achieve the desired consumer appeal presents enormous market opportunities.
Pea protein’s high nutritional value and low cost attracts interest – but it is highly insoluble in water and thus has been minimally used in protein drinks to date.
In response, Pressure BioSciences – a supplier of pressure-based instruments, consumables and process development services to the F&B industry – is highlighting the use of its patented Ultra Shear Technology (UST) platform in the production of protein-enriched milk containing a novel emulsified plant-protein suspension.
PBI’s proprietary UST platform combines very high pressure and precisely controlled extreme shear forces to help food scientists blend dairy and pea protein (two products which naturally resist mixing) into a sensory-appealing, nutritional and long-term stable plant protein-based beverage.
Writing in the journal Food Hydrocolloids, researchers from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences discovered that UST successfully created stable suspensions of milk-pea protein blends in microscopic particle sizes – the objective required for commercially-suitable products.
The researchers highlight this achievement could not be reached through existing high-pressure processing (HPP) or thermal processing techniques alone.
“UST-processed suspensions can be optimized to provide thickening viscosity for certain products, which can result in improved stability, nutritional value, and consumer appeal. Thus, UST’s ability to formulate complex micro or nano emulsions and suspensions will give manufacturers multiple additional options for health and wellness products,” remarks Dr. Edmund Ting, senior VP of engineering at PBI.
“While we have previously demonstrated that UST makes fantastic nanoemulsions, there are even more applications where microemulsions as well as nano/micro suspensions are practical and useful for products and product concentrates.”
By Benjamin Ferrer
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