Pea proteins based food products as meat replacers: The Profetas concept

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  • Jongen/Meerdink: Pea proteins based food products as meat replacers

    Pea proteins based food products as meat replacers:The Profetas concept

    W. M. F. Jongen and G. Meerdink

    1 Introduction

    Present food production systems have negative effects on ourenvironment. The use of fertilizers, crop protectants, energy,water and other inputs, the generation of waste streams and thespace required for the production of raw materials, causes soil,water and air pollution, deforestation and erosion, and loss ofspecies. Estimates are that half of all human environmentalimpact is food-related. If society wants to reduce these negativeeffects, changes in the production and consumption of meat aremost challenging of all food product categories, particularly theintensive animal husbandry. Meat, besides dairy products, is themost important source of proteins in the western diet. In manydeveloping countries a sharp increase in the consumption ofmeat is forecasted. The negative environmental effects arisefrom the fact that the conversion of feed by animals into meat isan inefficient process. It is estimated that the amount of plantmaterial necessary to produce a western diet including meat isalmost three times the amount necessary to produce an almostvegetarian diet [1]. Consequently, huge waste streams (manure,emissions of ammonia, etc.) are produced and a large propor-tion of the arable land is in use for the production of feed. A sub-stantial reduction of the environmental impact of present andfuture food production systems can be realized if one is able todecrease the consumption of meat products considerably. Thisis, however, only possible if new protein rich products, NovelProtein Foods (NPFs), can be developed which appeal to consu-mers and are competitive in the food market. The most relevantsource of proteins are plants. In this way the inefficient conver-sion step from plant to animal is avoided. At present micro-organisms are not a feasible option [2] for large scale productionof protein rich raw materials. Possible sources for plant proteinsare beans, grains, leaves and agricultural side streams. Thedevelopment of NPFs does not necessarily mean that meat

    should be excluded from our diet. Vast areas, which cannot beused for arable production, are suitable as grassland for cattle.Moreover, a large proportion of the agricultural waste streamscan be, and is in fact already, used as feed for animals.

    In the desk study on NPFs [2] it was shown that the produc-tion of NPFs is a promising option for the Dutch agri-business,and large-scale introduction seems possible within the nextdecades. Furthermore, it was concluded that it is technologi-cally not feasible and from a consumer point of view not desir-able to produce NPFs which mimic red meat. But for NPFsas protein-containing food ingredients market opportunitiesare present, in particular in fabricated foods (sausages, snacks,pizzas, ready-to-eat meals, soft drinks etc.). Already 45% ofthe total meat production is used as ingredients and it isexpected that this percentage will grow in the near future.However, before large scale market introduction of NPFs cantake place, at least the following technological problemsshould be solved: (i) the taste and flavour of present NPFs(TVP (textured vegetable protein), vegetarian hamburger, soyamilk etc.) is not satisfactory for most consumers, and (ii)appropriate technologies to produce NPFs are lacking. Thenutritional value and the safety of NPFs are not expected to bemain bottlenecks given present scientific insights.

    Given the lack of knowledge only incremental productdevelopment takes place at this moment and the necessarybreakthroughs are not foreseen. For such a breakthrough a con-siderable effort in fundamental technological research andproduct development will be necessary. The research pro-gramme Protein Foods, Environment, Technology and Society(Profetas) is aimed at providing a major input in that develop-ment process.

    2 Aim of the programme

    The developed research programme is elaborated from thenext starting points:

    1. The technological innovations aimed at should be placed ina societal context. Insight should be obtained in the societal

    402 Nahrung/Food 45 (2001) No. 6, pp. 402 404 i WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH, D-69451 Weinheim 2001 0027-769X/2001/0610-0402$17.50+.50/0

    Wageningen University, Product Design and Quality ManagementGroup, Department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences, P.O. Box8129, NL-6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands.Correspondence to:Dr. G. Meerdink (e-mail: gerrit.meerdink@ift.fdsci.wag-ur.nl).

    Profetas (Protein Foods, Environment, Technology and Society) is aDutch trans-disciplinary research programme, aiming to develop moresustainable food systems. The central theme of the programme is thequestion: is a transition feasible from a diet based primarily on animalproteins to a diet based for a large part on new food products made fromplant proteins? In the programme this question is studied from very dif-

    ferent disciplinary perspectives. In the programme a consumer andchain oriented approach is adopted. In the experimental part of the pro-gramme, pea proteins are studied. Profetas is funded by the NetherlandsOrganisation for Scientific Research, with support from the Ministry ofAgriculture, Nature management and Fisheries and the food industry.The programme compromises 16 PhD and post-doctoral projects.

    New Concepts and Procedures for ObtainingLegume Protein-based Food Ingredients

  • Jongen/Meerdink: Pea proteins based food products as meat replacers

    Nahrung/Food 45 (2001) No. 6, pp. 402 404 403

    threats and opportunities that influence a successful intro-duction of NPFs. Furthermore, governmental policy meas-ures should be identified which facilitate this introduction.

    2. Consumer expectations of NPFs are the starting point forthe technological research projects. These expectationsshould be translated into product characteristics, which arethen the targets of the technological projects. The technolo-gical projects should address bottlenecks along the wholeproduction chain down to plant breeding.

    3. The focus should be (i) on the development of tools andconcepts for the production of protein-rich ingredients andnot at actual product development, and (ii) on the design ofviable future production chains for NPFs.

    4. Tools have to be developed and applied by which theexpected reduction of the environmental impact of the foodproduction system by the introduction of NPFs can bequantified and evaluated.

    5. The development of tools, concepts and the design of pro-duction chains should be performed in close co-operationwith the main stake-holders in the production chain ofNPFs.

    6. The emphasis is on the Dutch agri-business and consumer-market, although in wider EU and global context.

    The main theme of Profetas is the question how to linkimprovement of our environment and be successful in a com-petitive market situation by the production of NPFs. The pro-gramme aims at answering the next questions:

    1. Is the introduction of NPFs from a consumer and societalpoint of view desirable?

    2. Is the production of desired NPFs technological feasible?3. How efficient can the production chain of NPFs be orga-

    nised using economical as well as environmental criteria?

    In Profetas these questions are studied from different per-spectives:

    Technology. To name but a few of the food technologyresearch issues to be addressed: consumer sensory preferenceshave to be translated into product characteristics, protein-fla-vour interactions and protein-induced texture formation inNPFs have to be studied.

    Environment. New tools to measure environmental impactof future technologies, new tools for chain assessment, andnew ecological and economic indicators for sustainable foodproduction have to be developed.

    Society. Focus is on the consumer and consumption behav-iour, on socio-cultural and political analysis of the potentialfor a shift from animal to plant protein foods (in the context ofmodern lifestyles), but also on economic and legal conse-quences for the agricultural sector in the regio and the Eur-opean Union.

    Integration of all constituent projects is concerted. Strategiesfor a shift towards more sustainable protein food productionand consumption will be developed and evaluated, from whichoptions for policy for policy makers from government andindustry will be derived.

    3 Technological part of the programme

    In the technological part of the programme tools (models,technologies, software) and knowledge (sensory preferences,

    desired product characteristics, structure-function relationshipsof proteins) along the whole production chain will be devel-oped. Tools and knowledge should enable the agri-business toproduce new non-meat protein rich products which are suc-cessful in the market. Viable (future) production chains will beidentified. The opportunities of locally grown crops to be usedas raw material source will be examined as well as increasedby using genetic modification. In particular pea proteins willbe studied [3].

    In this part of programme 8 coherent research projects (6PhD and 2 post-doctoral) are defined which cover the wholeproduction chain. The programme is set-up in such way, thatconsumer perceptions of NPFs are the starting point for thetechnological research. This approach is chosen, becausenowadays the food market is consumer-driven.

    The main research issues are (Figure 1):1. Consumer (sensory) perceptions and preferences. The suc-

    cess of NPFs in the market depends on how they fit withthe preferences and life style of consumers. The PhD-pro-ject 1 will provide incentives for potential successful NPFproduct concepts. To be able to make a translation of con-sumer wants into technological demands it is important tohave a basic understanding of the relationship between phy-sical and chemical product characteristics and sensory per-ceptions. In PhD project 2 sensory evaluations will be exe-cuted using descriptive and consumer panels and instru-mental measurements will be carried out to determine thecorresponding product characteristics. Finally predictivemodels will be developed.

    Figure 1. The chain oriented approach.

  • Jongen/Meerdink: Pea proteins based food products as meat replacers

    404 Nahrung/Food 45 (2001) No. 6, pp. 402 404

    2. Processing of protein-rich raw materials. As mentionedbefore, the taste and flavour of existing NPFs is unsatisfac-tory. For consumer acceptance, taste and flavour is the firstquality criterion by which products are judged. Preliminaryconsumer surveys show that in particular texture and fla-vour of present NPFs are inadequate. This inadequacy iscaused by the fact that fundamental knowledge on theunderlying processes are lacking. Texture formation andthe interaction between the protein matrix and flavour com-ponents are covered by two PhD-projects (projects 3 and4).

    3. Plant breeding and dedicated protein production. Breedingfor increased protein content and improved protein proper-ties with the intent to use these proteins to produce meatalternatives was so far not done. In a PhD-project (project6) the possibilities to modify protein properties are exam-ined experimentally using genetic engineering. A post-doc-toral project (project 5) identifies the opportunities forlarge-scale production of protein-rich crops, using mathe-matical models, which describe the growth of these crops.The opportunities of genetic engineering for large-scaleproduction will be assessed.

    4. Optimal chain design. In the design of a production chainfor a specific protein ingredient, choices have to make withrespect to the selection of raw materials, process technolo-gies to be used and treatment of side and waste streams.Moreover, assessments of costs and environmental effectshave to take place. In a PhD-project (project 7) an optimiz-

    ing methodology will be developed which can be used inthe design of viable production chains.

    The consumer-oriented projects focus on the desirability, thetechnological projects on the feasibility and the chain designproject on the efficiency of the production of NPFs. This part ofthe program is co-ordinated by a program-manager (project 8).

    The Profetas programme will be running during 19992004.Additional information can be found on the website:WWW.PROFETAS.NL.

    References[1] Duurzame Technologische Ontwikkeling (Sustainable Technolo-

    gical Development), Novel Protein Foods in 2035, Final &Research Reports, Programma DTO, Delft, The Netherlands (inDutch) 1996.

    [2] Pennings de Vries, F. W. T., H. van Keulen and R. Rabbinge,Natural resources and limits of food production in 2040, in: Eco-regional approaches for sustainable land use and food produc-tion, edited by J. Bouma et al., pp. 6587. Kluwer AcademicPublishers, The Netherlands 1995.

    [3] Linnemann, A. R., and D. Swaving Dijkstra, Crit. Rev. Food Sc.Nutrition, accepted for publication.

    Received: 25 January 2001.Accepted: 10 April 2001.

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