Call for partners: Pulse breeding for flavor & functionality


Call for partners: Pulse breeding for flavor & functionality

Pulses are attractive protein crops for their suitability to the European climate, relatively high yields, and nitrogen-fixing properties. Proteins from pulses and other plants are increasingly desired in food products to replace animal proteins in products like meat analogues or dairy alternatives, which appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers. The current flavor and functionality of pulse proteins are not optimal for applying in these products resulting in off-flavors and undesired product structure. In this Public Private Partnership, Wageningen University & Research will combine actors along the value chain, applying expertise in cultivation, plant science, food science, and sensory science to breed pulses for applications in food.

For a sustainable food supply for the growing population, a transition is needed from animal proteins towards sustainably produced, often plant-derived, proteins. These proteins come quite often from legumes, of which soy is one of the major crops. However, there is a growing demand for proteins from other legumes, like pulses, preferably grown in Western Europe. Pulses are the dried edible seeds of certain legumes, such as peas, faba beans, and common beans.


Protein concentrates and isolates are currently used in products like meat analogues and dairy replacers. However, the flavor and functionality of the available fractions is not optimal. The main challenges are the off-flavor of pulses and the structuring properties of the proteins. Currently, ingredient and technology solutions are used to overcome this, by e.g. combining proteins, by removing off-flavor compounds from protein ingredients, or by adding relatively large amounts of flavor ingredients to mask the protein off-flavor, resulting in sub-optimal product quality.

Optimal flavor and functionality

The aim of this project is to combine plant science and food science to breed pulses for optimal flavor and functionality to be used in complex food products such as meat alternatives. In this project we will use a reverse-engineering approach starting with the product requirements to determine the functionality of pulse proteins and to go to the start of the production chain and select and breed pulses that have better properties towards the application in food.

On the plant side we will select and develop varieties with reduced content of off-flavor (responsible) compounds, while on the postharvest side we will use process and ingredients options to improve the functionality of pulse proteins for better properties towards food applications.

Project structure

We foresee the following interrelating activities:

1.       Requirements for flavor and functionality of proteins from pulses

Based on scientific literature and knowledge of project partners, the main requirements for flavor and functionality will be defined. Components responsible for off-flavor of pulses will be identified and analysis methods will be developed to measure these off-flavors in pulses. Requirements for functionality (e.g. protein composition, protein properties, presence of anti-nutritional components) will be defined as input to the next steps. We will use a reverse-engineering approach for this.

2.    Screening of cultivars of pulses for off flavors and functionalities

By using analytical methods, a large range of available cultivars of pulses will be screened for (off-) flavor compounds and functionality. The focus will be on reducing off-flavors of pulse proteins. Together with the project partners, a selection will be made of relevant pulses with the focus on pulses that can be grown locally (pea, faba bean, other beans).

3.       Selection/breeding of promising pulses varieties

Cultivars with reduced off-flavors and improved functionalities will be selected/developed. To ensure the stability of these characters varieties will be assessed in field trials  at different locations and evaluated on protein yield and off-flavor compounds.

4.       Processability of proteins from pulses

The pulses from the field trials will be fractionated towards ingredients suitable for food processing. The protein fractions will be used to make model meat analogues. The flavor and functionality of these pulse fractions will be determined to evaluate the impact of breeding on these properties.

We foresee interacting loops within these four activities between screening (2) and requirements of flavor and functionality (1) and between processability (4) and breeding and field trial (3).

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Want to join us?

Are you a breeder of pulses, grower of pulses or an ingredient supplier or food manufacturer using pulses in food? Please join this Public-Private-Partnership consortium project. Together we will generate new insights in requirements for pulse ingredients for food and breeding opportunities to achieve these better functionalities using an integrated research approach combining plant breeding and food science.

Partners are asked for both an in-cash and in-kind contribution. This in-kind contribution can be in the form of ingredients, equipment and hours spend on the project.