Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, May 2018

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■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 50 MAY 2018 Development Curveballs But harvesting that potential won't be easy. "Some plant proteins may be popular in name with consumers," notes Black, but unless the source is nutritious, high in pro- tein, sustainably low cost, and yields an in- gredient with formulation functionality, "it will be hard to scale up production in food for a mainstream audience." And as it hap- pens, she adds, "T e functional properties of plant proteins are still in a development stage." Indeed, taste, texture, and mouthfeel are oft-noted drawbacks, with the f avor prof les of some plant sources described variously as beany, bitter, "green," or reminiscent of cardboard—stark contrasts to the relatively creamy f avor of dairy proteins like whey. Even mild-tasting, highly concentrated pow- ders "can add some of f avors or mute other better-tasting ingredients," Raban adds. "And whole-food sources of protein that carry a strong f ber quotient can compro- mise product texture" with their grittiness or graininess. Specht surmises that the sensory gap separating traditional dairy from plant- based proteins might be an artifact of years of breeding designed to maximize the latter's usefulness as animal feed or ingredients for "highly processed foods." So as preferences tilt toward "natural, plant-based, organic, specialty, and healthy foods," she says, "plant proteins will need to be optimized for a new consumer palate." And because consumer tastes are largely grounded in what they f nd familiar, plant- based alternatives to animal products will have to "f nd ways to replicate all the sensa- tions of the foods they're replacing," Specht continues. "Many animal ingredients have multiple uses in food production, with one providing desirable f avor, texture, or ease of formulation, for example. It can be a chal- lenge to f nd one-to-one plant-based replace- ments for such animal ingredients." Supply Side Supply lines pose uncertainties, as well. Brands looking to formulate with novel plant protein "face the common innovation di- lemma of sourcing uncommon ingredients in smaller quantities, which makes per-unit costs higher," Specht says. "As the plant- based market continues to grow, economies of scale will make novel plant ingredient prices drop." At least that's the hope. But even here, hurdles remain. "T is is sometimes a chicken-and-egg issue," observes Jon Getz- inger, CMO, Puris (Minneapolis, MN). "It's dif cult to spend large sums of money to commercialize a new plant protein source when it isn't accepted yet by consumers or food manufacturers." So when a source goes viral and formulators f ock to it— think pea protein a few years back—de- mand invariably outstrips supply until producers increase capacity—"provided," Getzinger says, "it makes economic sense." Work in Progress T ose are a lot of stars to tease into align- ment. But the fact that plant proteins con- tinue to thrive indicates that they're falling into place—albeit sometimes slowly. As Paige Ties, senior technical service specialist for research and development at Cargill, says, "T ere's a development curve throughout the supply chain that new plant proteins will experience. But as processors gain a greater understanding of the vari- ables impacting the functional, nutritional, and sensory attributes of their protein, that learning moves upstream." T e upshot: "From a formulation perspective, our ability to incorporate plant proteins into a variety of applications has grown by leaps and bounds." For example, a persistent challenge when formulating with plant proteins has been their fondness for water, which hydrates the protein and increases the density of, say, the puf ed cereal, snacks, and baked goods where they appear. Ties says that her team has done "extensive testing" with a range of protein types and blends to standardize rheology "so that formulators don't have to change the amount of water in their formu- las dramatically." Diversifying plant protein formats— from concentrate powders and fraction- ated isolates to "whole-food" protein ingredients—has also expanded plant pro- teins' applicability—and given formulators options. "For some," Raban says, "the high concentration of powders makes formula- tion easier since less product is needed. But for others, the whole form has benef ts besides protein." For example, her com- pany's chia protein isn't as high in protein as its pumpkinseed protein concentrate, she says, "but it can add f ber and omega-3 fatty acids. So formulators working on a granola bar might look to a whole ingre- dient like chia, whereas a protein shake developer might want a mild-tasting con- centrated protein form, like our faba bean concentrate." Perhaps even more exciting, protein sci- entists in labs across the country are us- ing tools like hydrolysis to increase plant- protein solubility—a boon to beverage formulation—and enzymes like transglu- taminase to "stich plant proteins together to increase their crosslinking capability," Specht says, which is critical to plant pro- teins' ability to replicate meaty textures. "Other forms of milling and processing can selectively remove bitter components or anti-nutrients that can impede vitamin absorption and impact both taste and nutri- tion," she continues. "T ere are also tremen- dous opportunities to leverage advances in sophisticated high-throughput breeding in- formed by genomics to develop strains for specif c applications in plant-based meat, dairy, and eggs." And while centuries of breeding have given commodity crops like corn, soy, SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/MADLEN

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