The research will compare different processing techniques and parameters, such as equipment, time and temperature, to understand the impact they have on yield and protein functionality.
The project then plans to optimise the nutritional value and technical performance of the ingredients – providing manufacturers with more plant-based protein options.
As a precursor to the technical research, Campden BRI surveyed members of the food and drink industry to establish what their biggest challenges were when using plant-based proteins in their products.
Common responses included concerns over protein content, quality, increased ingredient or processing costs, longer ingredients lists and the potentially unpleasant taste of plant-based proteins. However, protein functionality was their overriding concern.
The rise in veganism and flexitarianism
Ingredients research team leader Tiia Morsky acknowledged that the food industry was responding to the rise in veganism and flexitarian diets by seeking to develop or reformulate products with plant-based protein ingredients, but added that it was no easy task.
“Manufacturers can become confused about which plant-based proteins are available to them, which are most suitable for their product and how they will function during new product development,” Morsky said.
“Protein functionality plays a key role in product development and consumer appeal. Egg, for example, is a unique multi-functional ingredient that is used for aeration, emulsification, enriching, colour, shine, and structure formation.
“Replacing this ingredient is, understandably, difficult for manufacturers. However, our work has found pulses – such as peas, beans and lentils – display great functional properties with significantly higher foam expansion and foam volume stability when compared to egg white proteins.”
Common sources raise allergy concerns
Common sources of plant proteins are pea, soy and gluten, but these come with concerns over allergies, impact on flavour and sustainability, Campden BRI said. Lesser-studied plant-based alternatives, therefore, have promising potential as alternative protein sources, it added.
Morsky said the project was already looking into protein-derived from microalgae and chickpeas.
“We chose microalgae as it is a relatively new ingredient that has potential as an alternative protein source for various food products,” she added.
“Chickpeas were chosen for their wide availability and because they scored well in our survey of consumers, which provided us with an insight into how willing consumers are to consume plant-based proteins and what drives or deters them from consuming these foods.”
Campden BRI recently held a vegan seminar for 100 industry representatives, allowing it to gain further insight into what consumers wanted and what the industry needed.
It said that, over the next two years, the project would continue to investigate different processing methods and assess more plant-based ingredients to determine how they performed in meat and dairy alternatives and bakery products.