A demand for protein that is anticipated to outstrip planetary resources by 2050 is prompting the agro-food sector to urgently find alternative solutions for human nutrition. As part of the Protein Competence Centre (PCC) initiative, Royal Cosun, AVEBE, The Coca-Cola Company, WFBR, NIZO, Van Hall Larenstein, and Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen have entered into a public-private cooperation to investigate the complex interplay of proteins and fibres of different origins. This project seeks to unravel the potential of fibre-protein interactions and take its applicability in food applications to the next level by developing nutritionally rich beverages.
This will enable the food industry to:
- Increase the use of alternative protein sources, i.e. plant-based, as compared with animal ones
- Achieve a more efficient use of protein-rich side streams, favouring the implementation of a ‘total use’ approach for food production
- Accelerate innovation in the field of plant-based nutritional beverages
Understanding and linking protein-fibre interaction mechanisms to their effects on the physical, structural and mechanical properties of complex food systems such as nutritional beverages is of crucial importance. Such knowledge will provide an impetus to the food industry, as it will lead to more options for sustainable plant proteins with increased nutritional and product quality.
Nutritional beverage products, such as dietary supplements targeted at different consumer groups, are currently based on animal-derived proteins (dairy). To reduce the ecological footprint and ensure a more flexible use of protein sources, one focus will be on gradually substituting dairy proteins with plant-derived ones in nutritional beverages. Plant protein ingredients often carry along fibres, especially when processing is mild and sustainable. Dietary fibres from different plant origins are of interest as a nutritional enrichment for nutritional beverages, given the many positive health benefits of fibre consumption and the consistently low intake of fibres in most Western countries. However, protein substitution and fibre enrichment in beverage formulations pose technological challenges because of their effect on product quality. Generally, interactions between proteins and fibres in aqueous media can lead to shelf-life instability, e.g. unwanted structure formation or layer formation (syneresis). This is not desirable from a consumer and technological perspective.
The project is co-financed by the Top Sector Agri & Food and is registered under the number: TKI-LWV19026. The end date of the project is 31 December 2021.
WUR Proteins for Life programme
This public-private cooperation was initiated within the Protein Competence Centre (PCC) and forms part of the WUR Proteins for Life programme. Wageningen researchers working on the Proteins for Life research programme say their vision is to create a world built on sustainable food systems, in which every world citizen receives enough high-quality protein. However, this ambition will only be achieved if Western countries switch to a consumption pattern with more plant-based than animal proteins, and if the quality of food in developed countries is improved. If it were up to Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, in ten years' time consumers would be able to choose from a diverse range of protein sources: both animal and plant-based, and incorporating both insects and micro-organisms. Companies would also have the knowledge and technologies to develop attractive meat and dairy alternatives that can compete in terms of texture, taste and nutritional value, but which are many times more sustainable.