Emerging Plant Proteins: Protein Power for vegetarians and health conscious consumer

The number of food products and diets launched globally with higher protein content has increased in the recent years. These high protein diets are increasingly recommended in sports nutrition, weight management and combating obesity. Some of the characteristics of protein that determine its applications in various products are:

  1. Nutrition: Amino acid profile, containing all essential amino acids, absorption, digestion,
  2. Functionality: solubility, stability, viscosity, foaming, transparency, behavior in acidic beverages, texture, moisture retention,
  3. Clean taste: Neutral flavor, aroma
  4. Label friendly: Non-allergic, Non-GMO, organic

Traditionally animal sourced proteins and soy protein, considered complete proteins, were used in various food applications. Rising cost of dairy proteins, consumer demand for ‘clean’ label (allergen-free, lactose free, GMO-free), and sustainability concerns are driving food industry to explore new plant-based proteins(Table 1) as an alternative to the established animal-based and soy proteins in the market.Plant protein sources are also gaining popularity due to the health benefits of plant-based diets in lowering cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes and providing higher fiber than their meat-based counterparts. As a result, Pea protein, Brown rice protein, Algae, Quinoa, and Pulses are gaining popularity as ingredients in many food products.

Table -1. List of Plant Protein ingredients (other than soya) and their commercial suppliers

Plant proteins, in general, fall short of providing a complete protein profile. However, the sprouting of rice changes the nutritional value making it a complete protein.Various plant proteins can also be mixed to create a complete amino acid profile and improve taste. For Example, AIDP’s Advantein is a blend of brown rice and pea protein. Whole algal protein is completely protected by the microalgae cell wall, limiting its interaction with other ingredients. It does not affect the texture and enables protein fortification in many challenging food products like low-pH beverages.

With improvements in extraction, processing technologies and formulations, challenges of off-flavor, solubility, texture etc. in the plant based proteins are expected to be addressed. This will lead to increased incorporation of plant proteins in various food formulations with better organoleptic properties.


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