How to Accelerate Plant Protein-Based Formulations

Food manufacturers are under mounting pressure to develop animal product-free formulations and products due to increasing consumer demand for meat alternatives. However, replacing meat products with plant-derived formulations is a complex task.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Tatjana Baibakova

Animal proteins play various roles, including stabilization and emulsification, and accurately replicating these characteristics is challenging. This article will explore the problems associated with plant-based meat alternatives and will provide an overview of Turbiscan DNS from Formulaction Inc.

Multiple studies have established the environmental and health benefits of reduced meat consumption.1,2 Rearing livestock for food is extremely resource-intensive and energetically inefficient compared to growing crops for human consumption.

The carbon footprint per calorie of meat is, in general, much higher than that of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Studies have suggested that reducing the amount of meat consumed in favor of whole plant-based products can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.3

Increasing proportions of consumers opt to reduce their meat consumption or eliminate it from their diets.4 In a 2019 survey of 3,627 US adults, 41% said they were eating less meat for environmental reasons.

Plant Proteins on the Rise

Industrial food manufacturers are under increasing pressure to meet the demand for more responsible food production with lower carbon emissions and to accommodate the dietary preferences of vegetarians and vegans.

Plant-based raw materials are increasingly replacing animal-based additives. This is particularly true for proteins, an incredibly broad and versatile class of additives in the food industry, fulfilling a variety of key roles as emulsifiers, stabilizers, foaming agents, and texturing agents. 

Proteins are also a vital component of a healthy diet for biological functions such as muscle development. Furthermore, protein increases feelings of satiety.6

Plant proteins offer several advantages over animal proteins: they are less resource-intensive, have a decreased carbon footprint, and are vegan/vegetarian-friendly. However, accurately replicating the characteristics of animal-derived proteins using plant proteins can be a challenge for food manufacturers.

Plant proteins typically offer low or poor solubility and a performance level that is considered worse than conventional emulsifiers, both in terms of efficiency and stability of the finished product.

The Challenges of Working with Plant Proteins 

Depending on the plant source, the composition and behavior of plant-derived proteins can vary greatly. Some of the most common sources are soy, peas, and various legumes. The qualities of plant-based additives can also vary depending on where the crop was harvested, the purification method, and eventual chemical functionalization.

Replacing animal protein additives with plant-based additives is highly complex for food manufacturers. Once the suitable protein is selected, the manufacturer determines the optimal formulation, factoring in formulation cost impacts. Processes must also be adapted to work with the new ingredient.

Adapting processes to work with new ingredients is a key challenge, particularly when it comes to solubilization, which is often much more complicated and time-intensive when working with plant proteins.

Quickly and Easily Characterizing the Performance of Plant-Protein Additives 

Currently, there are no standardized methods for testing and characterizing the performance of proteins in processes such as solubilization, emulsification, and stabilization.7 However, food manufacturers typically devise their own tests that enable them to assess and compare formulations internally.

Unfortunately, these tests are typically time-consuming, using multiple pieces of expensive equipment. Many tests (such as assessments of turbidity) are based on time-consuming and inaccurate visual observation rather than fast and reliably repeatable digital measurements.

The Turbiscan DNS from Formulaction Inc. is the first all-in-one platform for dispersibility and stability studies, enabling protein efficiency to be assessed with a single experiment run within a single instrument.

Using static multiple light scattering (SMLS), the Turbiscan DNS enables rapid online quantification of solubilization, emulsifying, and stabilizing properties. This system analyzes light scatter in samples to detect minute changes in particle concentration and size with high sensitivity.

Designed for maximum ease of use, the Turbiscan DNS enables online particle size measurement without requiring sampling or human intervention, eliminating time-consuming manual sampling and testing. The system provides fast and quantitative dispersion state and destabilization monitoring.

High-frequency data acquisition means the all-in-one analyzer provides high-resolution insight into kinetics within a sample, with robust qualitative data providing meaningful comparisons between formulations.

Contact the Experts

To find out more about how the Turbiscan DNS can help formulators save time and make better decisions, get in touch with Formulaction today.

References and Further Reading 

  1. You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local
  2. Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 360, 987–992 (2018). 
  3. Petersen, K. S. et al. Healthy Dietary Patterns for Preventing Cardiometabolic Disease: The Role of Plant-Based Foods and Animal Products. Curr Dev Nutr 1, cdn.117.001289 (2017). 
  4. What share of people say they are vegetarian, vegan, or flexitarian? Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/vegetarian-vegan
  5. Mitchell, T. US Public Views on Climate and Energy. Pew Research Center Science & Society. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2019/11/25/u-s-public-views-on-climate-and-energy/ (2019). 
  6. Potier, M., Darcel, N. & Tomé, D. Protein, amino acids and the control of food intake. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 12, 54–58 (2009). 
  7. McClements, D. J., Lu, J. & Grossmann, L. Proposed Methods for Testing and Comparing the Emulsifying Properties of Proteins from Animal, Plant, and Alternative Sources. Colloids and Interfaces 6, 19 (2022). 

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Formulaction.

For more information on this source, please visit Formulaction.

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