Fish waste could prove an abundant source of high quality proteins for the sports nutrition market and selected savoury packaged foods, according to researchers in the north of England.
Tony Taylor, emeritus professor at the University of Humberside, UK, has been working with Sheffield Hallam University on the project.
He said: "After filleting, you've got 50% of the fish left, which typically goes into fish meal, where it only raises something like £20/t.
"We've been taking this 'waste', heating it gently to 40-50°C, adding a papaya-based protease [enzyme that breaks up proteins] called papain to hydrolyse the proteins into peptides and then spray-drying them into water-soluble powders."
The most obvious end market for the protein was in sports nutrition, although it could also be used in stocks and soups, he predicted. "It's good quality protein, but we don't have a detailed amino acid profile yet."
Similar initiatives are being explored in Ireland with the launch of the Marine Functional Food Research Initiative.
A key part of the project will be to identify more lucrative markets for fish processing waste, said Dr Peter Heffernan, chief executive of the Galway-based Marine Institute. "Our aim is to create a strong interdiscipinary research team, capable of exploring marine animals and plants as a source of materials for use in functional foods."
The government-funded scheme brings together academics from universities in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.