© Mirko Runge/ Saatzucht Steinach
Raw materials to produce plant proteins
We study plant raw materials that have potential as protein sources. The focus is on assessment of the quality and cost.
Our research focuses on the optimal utilization of plant raw materials and the manufacture of functional protein ingredients and high-quality vegan and vegetarian foods.
We recover proteins from a wide variety of plant raw materials such as protein-containing seeds and protein-containing byproducts of the food manufacturing industry. Key aspects of our work are sustainable and holistic raw material usage.
The functional and sensory properties of plant protein flours, concentrates, and isolates are customized using tailored recovery and processing methods.
Depending on the property profile, we use plant proteins as structuring agents, emulsifiers, and stabilizers for the development of vegan and vegetarian foods. Other key quality criteria of plant proteins are their biological value and digestibility. Food ingredients can be developed for customized applications.
The taste, shelf-life, and quality of vegan and vegetarian foods can thus be proactively optimized.
We characterize and evaluate plant raw materials for the efficiency of protein recovery and processing. Our work currently focuses on so-called leguminous plants (e.g. faba beans, peas, chickpeas, and lupines) and also oil seeds, cereals, and pseudo-cereals. Additionally, we put special attention on utilizing byproducts from the food and beverage industry such as oil press cake and spent brewery grain. These byproducts often still contain enough protein for holistic and sustainable raw material recovery and utilization.
When testing plant raw materials for their suitability for protein recovery we analyze their composition. We measure the chemical composition and also analyze for anti-nutritive components such as phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, and other protease inhibitors.
We adapt the recovery and processing methods to the respective plant raw material. The recovered proteins are analyzed for their taste profile and functional properties. Using these parameters we evaluate the materials for specific applications.
After cell breakdown and depending on the starting material we carry out specific steps for fractionation (e.g. extraction) and isolation (e.g. precipitation, ultrafiltration) in order to recover protein flours, protein concentrates, and protein isolates.
Proteins can be modified by thermal, physical, enzymatic, and fermentation processes to change their sensory and technofunctional properties. The way plant proteins are treated during their manufacture determines their properties. For example, enzymatic hydrolysis can be used to improve the solubility, emulsifying properties, and foaming activity of a protein ingredient. Even the allergenicity of plant proteins can be influenced. Depending on the protein raw materials and target application we can adapt the processing steps in order to develop food ingredients having customized sensory and functional properties. The properties of protein ingredients can also be optimized using specific combinations of plant protein ingredients.
Commercially available plant proteins differ in their quality and hence in their potential applications. Key quality criteria are not only the shelf-life, taste, and odor but also, for example, their viscosity properties and purity, as measured by the amount of accompanying substances that are present. In addition to their functional properties such as for structure formation, structure stabilization, and emulsification, other important quality criteria of plant proteins are their biological value and digestibility.
We study the use of plant proteins in a wide range of food products. The ingredients of each food product must have specific technofunctional properties. Plant proteins can be used as gelling agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and fat substitutes and as alternatives to animal protein sources such as eggs, milk, and meat. Plant proteins can also replace artificial food ingredients. As natural substances they facilitate Clean Labeling.
Different protein preparations have different properties depending on the raw material and manufacturing process. The sensory optimization of foods containing plant proteins is a major challenge. The taste, texture, and mouth-feel can be controlled by the manufacturing method and processing and also via customized modification. Our own sensory experts monitor all product developments. Depending on requirements, consumer studies are undertaken in collaboration with the Technische Universität München.
Successes to date include the market introduction of vegan products as alternatives to dairy products and also vegetarian meat surrogates. Key aspects of this success have been the technological advances we have made in extrusion technology and fermentation technology.