To make a meaningful shift in the ratio of plant-based proteins possible, it is essential to improve the appeal of products using sustainable protein sources. Together with industrial partners across the full supply chain, WUR started a project to increase the consumer appeal and -acceptance of plant-based foods by enabling the use of fewer and more familiar ingredients for the consumer.
Currently, to compensate for the lower functional quality of many sustainable proteins in structuring and texturizing, plant-based food products contain a relatively large number of additives, often with much longer ingredient lists than the animal protein-based products they aim to replace. Going hand-in-hand with these long ingredient lists is an overreliance on highly refined ingredients, with consequent reduction in the ‘goodness of plants’ in plant-based foods, and high energy and water costs in processing. Consumer goods manufacturers report a desire to use less refined ingredients, but readily acknowledge that they cannot do so today due to a lack of knowledge needed to create desired structures from complex components.
New scientific insights
The required scientific knowledge can be roughly divided along two key lines: 1) phase behaviour of a range of plant proteins, 2) synergy between plant proteins and between other naturally occurring ingredients in proteins sources. Two fundamental work packages aim to deliver new scientific insights in these domains, which will be applied in a separate application-focused work package toward four different model systems in the field of dairy and meat alternatives.
Applicability in practice
The presence of partners across the full supply chain ensures applicability in practice. Equipment manufacturers provide access to existing and emerging protein separation technologies. Ingredient manufacturers are present to translate findings toward the next generation of less-refined ingredients, and in partnership with flavour house, to solve sensory challenges that arise. Enzyme suppliers deliver bioconversion solutions for extraction efficiency and high-functional protein modifications. Finally, consumer goods manufacturers provide continuous feedback to the scientific research, ensuring a close link to practice and prioritization of solution directions with the highest impact in application.