Why do we want to use lupine protein in food products?
There is a growing global demand for plant-based proteins. Regionally cultivated protein plants are particularly in focus, such as sweet lupines grown in Germany. About 700,000 people in Germany are vegans and this number is growing. As a consequence, the demand for vegan products with high plant protein contents is on the increase. Our lupine proteins are now being used to respond to this trend. We aim to develop and commercialize nutri-physiologically valuable foods that have as good a taste and mouth-feel as traditional foods.
What benefits do lupines have as a protein raw material?
The starting plant for our research is the narrow leafed sweet lupine. These lupines are specially cultivated for the food sector, are very rich in protein, and contain few undesired bitter substances. These tough plants have several advantages over the largely imported soybeans and other protein plants:
- They can be widely cultivated in Germany on sandy soil
- They produce very good yields in our climate zone
- They require little fertilizer due to the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the root nodules
- The taproot improves the soil and makes the plants more resistant to drought
- There are no GM varieties
What are the challenges of using lupine protein in foods?
Lupines naturally have a slightly astringent, bitter, nutty taste. In order to use lupine protein in a variety of foods, a neutral sensory profile is necessary. Special processing methods have enabled us to overcome this challenge.
These processing methods also allow us to customize the properties of the protein. In order for a food to be tasty to consumers, the texture of the product and mouth-feel are highly important. These aspects can also be controlled via the manufacturing process. Depending on the product in which the lupine protein is being used, the technofunctional properties of the protein can be tailored with the resulting protein acting accordingly as a fat substitute, emulsifying agent, foaming agent, or gelling agent.
What success has our research on lupine protein achieved to date?
Using our research findings, the spin-off company Prolupin GmbH has commercialized a wide range of dairy product substitutes under the "MADE WITH LUVE" name. Since 2015 these plant-based alternatives to soft cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and milk have been able to be bought by consumers. The use of lupine protein in food products has enabled specific product properties such as creamy, spreadable, and cuttable to be realized in foods.
Lupine protein is also ideal for manufacturing meat surrogate products, vegan sausage products, and as a fat substitute in mayonnaise, dressings, creamy foods, and praline fillings.
In 2014 the Fraunhofer IVV and Prolupin GmbH were recipients of the German Future Prize for the research on lupine protein.