Industry’s acceleration toward more diversified finished plant-based offerings was the overarching theme of the Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins Summit (June 22 to 23). A swathe of industry leaders delved into the latest developments in protein ingredient discovery, scale-up opportunities, emergent technologies, as well as regulatory and market-access topics.
Among notable highlights, NotCo, a Chilean company with a supplier partnership with Ingredion, was named the winner of Roquette’s Innovation Challenge. Quorn Foods similarly launched its own challenge to spotlight new texturizing solutions for alternative meats, while hosting a separate seminar on scaling sustainable mycoprotein from food waste.
“The plant-based protein industry is at an exciting stage,” presenter Mike Natale, global leader of plant-based proteins at Ingredion, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“The bedrock of our plant-based future is being set now, but product development still presents new and unique problems that may be quite difficult to solve for individual companies alone, small or large,” he continues.
“Thus it is important to consider the entire ecosystem and to collaborate through open innovation as well as other avenues to accelerate growth.”
Roquette Innovation Challenge
NotCo, a company founded in 2015 in Santiago, Chile, was named the winner of Roquette’s Innovation Challenge.
“We’ve set up a small internal team to review all the proposed ideas and we based our selection on how those ideas could gain market traction, bring a new experience to the consumer, and contribute overall to a new plant-based gastronomy,” a Roquette spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
NotCo uses artificial intelligence to conceive a new generation of plant-based products. Its algorithm, called “Giuseppe,” is bringing new combinations of ingredients to create appealing textures, smells, colors and aromas.
The food-tech start-up’s current product line includes NotMayo, NotMilk, NotIceCream and NotBurger. It incorporates pineapple, coconut, cabbage, peas, bamboo, beets, chickpeas, seeds and a variety of other plant ingredients in its meat- and dairy-mimicking formulas.
As the company has expanded from Chile, to Brazil, and to the rest of Latin America, NotCo’s products are now available in several new markets.
Texturizing technology in the spotlight
The Quorn Foods Challenge launched with a focus on technologies that help achieve a “whole muscle food experience” in alternative meats. It named plant-based start-up Umiami as its winner for its proprietary technology to texturize plant proteins.
Until now, there were only two options to create meat substitutes – dry extrusion to create grounded products such as patties or sausages, and wet extrusion to create small chicken-like pieces.
However, no technology allowed to create thick fibrous whole cuts of meat. Umiami’s process masters both the thickness and the direction of the meat-like fibers in thick whole-cut-like products. Its applications include a wide variety of clean label plant-based meats and fish.
“We saw a fantastic array of entries for the Quorn Innovation Challenge and getting to a short-list certainly wasn’t easy,” comments Simone Sheehan, head of consumer and sensory science at Quorn Foods.
“Umiami’s idea stood out due to their focus on technical solutions that address the key consumer-innovation challenges around whole cuts. We look forward to collaborating with Umiami to truly delight consumers.”
The company has just unveiled its first product range of clean label plant-based chicken breasts, cod and chicken nuggets.
Protein from upscaled food waste
The Future Food-Tech Summit placed emphasis on the need for solutions that jointly curb food waste while fighting climate change. Scientists at King’s College London in the UK have estimated that arable farming produces around eight billion metric tons of carbohydrate waste every year.
If industry could find a way to ferment that waste and make mycoprotein, it would achieve production of the same amount of protein as that from five billion cows, suggests presenter Marco Bertacca, CEO of Quorn Foods.
“The numbers are mind-blowing – that’s three times more cows than there are on the planet now,” he remarks. “So even if we could achieve a fraction of this, it would be a game-changer in reducing the carbon footprint created by food production.”
“Protein from waste – it’s a big idea, and one that has the potential to revolutionize our food system.”
The novel food source has already attracted the attention of industry giants including the likes of Unilever, which has partnered with food-tech company Enough (formerly 3F BIO) to produce Abunda mycoprotein through fermentation.
In this process, natural fungi are fed with renewable feedstock, such as wheat and corn, to produce the complete food ingredient containing all essential amino acids and high in dietary fiber.
“According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO], half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture,” stresses Bertacca.
“I truly believe that the way we produce and source our foods will dictate the future of this planet. Our global food industry is currently on the wrong trajectory – it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is a transformation in the way we produce food and manage land.”
In other Future Food-Tech coverage, FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister platform NutritionInsight recently spoke to showcased start-ups including JellaTech, Harmony, P&M Foods, Eagle Genomics and Wiley about the mounting demand for sustainable proteins, leading to their rapid expansion.
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