The increasing demand for meat analogues has led to a global undersupply of extrusion capacity. This project focuses on low-energy alternatives to extrusion for structuring plant ingredients into meat analogues. To ensure the highest possible impact, a particular focus is given to protein streams which are already available in high volumes, or expected to grow to high capacity in the coming 3-5 years. By using meals of new crops instead of isolates or concentrates, these new sources can be potentially used in meat analogues without setting up new facilities for fractionation.
While extrusion is the current global standard for processing of meat analogues, less intensive structuring processes applied across the food industry point to alternative routes for structuring. Protein structuring forms the basis for texture development in a wide range of products like tofu, tempeh, paneer, mozzarella, bread, and puff pastry. By using existing processes and/or processes at lower temperature, implementation and scaling up of protein structuring can be enhanced. Moreover, processing can be more flexible and also applicable at small scale.
To achieve low energy structuring the focus is on selection of ingredients (combinations of meals of high potential crops and currently available ingredients), pretreatment of the ingredients, making protein structures with different technologies and fixation of these protein structures by e.g. heat or enzymatic processes, resulting in processing routes for low-energy structuring of current and new plant proteins into meat analogues.
This project combines development of a better basis of understanding the protein structuring processes occurring during milder processing with applied research into alternatives to extrusion, drawing from existing food processing unit operations.
Supply chain approach
Creating viable alternatives to extrusion requires a total value chain approach. In addition to meat analogue formulation expertise, also ingredient and technology developments are needed. While the first priority is to apply existing unit operations from food processing, technology suppliers have a key role in exploring this new application direction.
Ongoing research at Wageningen indicates the importance of ingredient quality to structure development, but that this capacity is not inherent to a single protein but rather to the combination of proteins and other ingredients. This project will examine ingredient interactions under less-intensive processing conditions and prioritize the (potentially-different) routes to structure formation per (combination of) sources.
Special focus is on new protein crops that have high potential to grow with relatively high yield in Western Europe, such as fababean, pea and lupin. To ensure that these crops can be used on relatively short notice in meat analogues, the focus will be to use these crops without extensive fractionation by using the meals and applying specific pretreatments.
Invitation to collaborate
This consortium is open for participation from plant protein manufacturers, ingredient companies, and consumer goods manufacturers. In return for in-cash and in-kind contributions to the project, partners can contribute materials for research and provide direction to the research activities. Unfortunately we are not able to reply to solicitations from research institutes or enquiries from students related to this project.