Comprehensive evaluation of plant proteins as potential dairy substitutes in infant formula : A review

Tang, Jiaying; Wichers, Harry J.; Hettinga, Kasper A.


Background: Infant formula serves as the primary source of nutrition for infants, particularly when breastfeeding is not an option. While traditional infant formulas rely on cow's milk proteins, their allergenic potential has driven the exploration of alternative protein sources. Plant proteins have emerged as a viable solution, not only because some are well-tolerated by infants with cow's milk allergy but also due to their alignment with vegan and sustainable ideals. Consequently, the interest in developing innovative infant formulas using high-quality plant proteins as dairy substitutes is increasing. Scope and approach: This review provides an in-depth understanding of the feasibility and challenges associated with using plant proteins in infant formula by critically assessing key factors. These factors include protein quality, antinutritional factors, allergenicity, and various technical requirements such as protein content, yield, purity, extraction methods, potential contaminants, and techno-functional properties. Key findings and conclusions: To develop promising plant-based infant formulas, the initial step involves the careful selection of appropriate plant proteins, coupled with a comprehensive evaluation of their nutritional value, potential health risks (including allergies), and safety considerations. Furthermore, addressing the processing complexities, ensuring safety and efficacy, and gauging consumer acceptance are crucial.