BETTER WAYS TO PROCESS PLANT-BASED FOODS UNDER FOCUS IN 3-YEAR PROJECT
New food processing methods to help make plant-based foods more like meat could be developed through a University of Queensland research project.
The initiative – being run with the Australian Research Council in partnership with an American food technology company, Motif Foodworks – will consider ways to change, for example, the texture of plant-based foods.
Dr Heather Smyth, an associate professor in the university’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences, said there may be different ways of pre-treating plant-based foods, such as plant protein, so that it behaves more like meat.
This, she said in a statement, would be an alternative to “just compensating burger formulations with various synthetic additives”.
“This might include fermenting them, extracting them differently or structurally modifying the plant-protein,” she added.
“Making the plant protein behave differently as an ingredient is really the space where we can have those breakthroughs, and already we’re seeing some interesting results.”
Another researcher involved in the three-year project, Professor Jason Stokes, of the School of Chemical Engineering, said in a statement that taste, texture and smell of plant-based foods were all important for consumers.
“[People have] started to demand quite a bit from the product, and want it to have the same characteristics as a normal meat experience while also being healthy,” he said.
Making meat alternatives more like actual meat is seen as key to driving up sales at a time when many consumers are keen to switch to plant-based alternatives for environmental and animal welfare reasons.
Dr Stefan Baier, Head of Food Science at Motif FoodWorks said the project would help the company to “design plant-based options that live up to the taste and texture expectations of consumers”.
“Through this work with the UQ team we’re bringing together the physics and sensory aspects of eating,” he said.
Many deals are being struck around the world between companies keen to advance the development of meat alternatives, such as recent agreements between Israel’s Aleph Farms, Thai Union and CJ CheilJedang of South Korea.