New Plant Proteins Take Root

Source: Food Technology magazine, February 2017, page 31.

In a world where soy has long been the protein of choice for many vegetarian and vegan dishes, there are newcomers to the scene. These five plant-based protein options are impacting the culinary landscape, and for good reason.

  • Proprietary Protein Blend. The idea for PROFI originated in response to the growing demand for a nutritious substitute combining a dietary fiber with a high-protein, plant-based composite containing all nine essential amino acids.

Now it’s a proprietary blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, lentil protein, and chickpea powder and is designed to replace soy, dairy, and meat as a high-protein, low-calorie alternative (about 20 g of protein per 120 calories).

PROFI was specifically designed to have a neutral taste, light ivory color, and to blend well in both water- and oil-based food systems,” says Debra Tomotsugu, manager, marketing and sales support at Dealers Ingredients, Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

Over the years, the Dealers Ingredients team learned the best combinations of proteins to yield complete protein composition, leading them to PROFI Pro and PROFI Bake.

PROFI Bake is especially designed to manage water like flour (does),” says Tomotsugu. “So it can replace flour on a one-to-one basis in most recipes.”

  • Pulses. Pulse flours derive from peas, lentils, and faba beans, with a protein concentration of 55%, 55%, and 60%, respectively.

“We have seen interest in vegetable-based ingredients skyrocketing with one in three consumers stating that they prefer a vegetable-sourced protein to an animal-sourced protein,” says Pat O’Brien, manager, strategic business development at Ingredion.

The natural flavor profile of pulse is beany, but for those interested in a blender flavor profile, Ingredion, Westchester, Ill; and AGT Foods, Regiina, Saskatchewan, Canada, launched clean-taste pulse ingredients for easier integration across applications. In addition to baked goods, soups, and batters, pulse protein is being used in vegan cheese formulations for both nutritional and textural purposes.

  • Algae. Algae might be one of-if not the-oldest plants on earth. But algae is being used in a very new way.

According to Mark Brooks, senior vice president of food ingredients, San Francisco-based TerraVia has spent more than a decade researching over 100,000 microalgae strains to find optimal ones for food ingredients. An advantage of algae, says Brooks, is its limited interaction with other ingredients.

“When used in formulations, the protein and nutrients are protected by the algae cell wall,” says Brooks. “This protection enables fortification in challenging applications such as low pH beverages, doughs, smooth dressings, and low-moisture products like crackers-and with no impact on viscosity at up to 20% inclusion.”

Used in vegetarian and vegan products like cereals, bakery mixes, and beverages, algae is well positioned to continue making an impact on the culinary world.

  • Lentiens. While not yet commercialized, lenteins, also known as “water lentils,” have “been around for hundreds of years and have the best amino acid profiles of all plant-based proteins, including soy,” says Cecilia Wittbjer, marketing manager at Parabel, Fellsmere, Fla.

Derived from the plant Lemnoideae, lenteins are able to double in biomass every day, and Parabel has plants in Florida that are yielding high volumes of these nonallergenic leaf proteins.

Rich with vitamins, minerals, and protein and similar to whey in amino acid profile, lenteins have a number of applications, including smoothies, soups, pastas, and baked goods. “It’s extremely adaptable.” Wittbjer says. “For example, some markets are looking to use lentein instead of greens in matcha tea.” Parabel’s lentein protein is set for a debut early this year.

  • Hemp. Alan Rillorta, director of protein and branded ingredient sales at AIDP, City of Industry, Calif., describes hemp as a “super plant.” “Not only can we use its protein, but other parts of hemp, such as the fiber oil, etc., are highly desirable for use I making building materials, textiles, foodstuffs, and even biodiesel.”

AIDP’s hemp proteins have a nutty flavor, a white color, and a smooth mouthfeel, and their primary application is in protein powder shakes. Rillorta said that while there are some limitations on hemp-notably hemp farming and “some stigmas”-many formulators are using hemp due to its high marketability. Hemp is eco-friendly, nutrition-rich plant protein whose sustainability and adaptability make it a viable new ingredient option.

Article reprinted with permission from FT magazine.

Scott Frankel is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area (

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