In terms of sustainability, nutritional value and bioavailability, what advantages do transformation processes have and what have recent results in innovation taught us about obtaining more active compounds? Given the competitive nature of the food industry, manufacturers are seeking to gain an advantage where they can.

Innovation within ingredients offers one way to cater to consumer demand, but finding the right process for modification can be challenging, as many flavours and bioactive ingredients are sensitive to the manufacturing process, having an adverse effect on product stability.

Radical innovation: combination of competencies

One initiative that has been introduced in Europe is by IMPROVE – the first open European platform fully dedicated to plant-based proteins. A dedicated number of academic partners combined with major French Agro-Industries aims to accelerate innovation and boost market uptake of plant based proteins, whilst fostering radical innovation through research and development. IMPROVE propose a unique combination of competencies and equipment within one place, boosting innovation and providing added value.

The platform aims to invest around €9 million in technology over the next decade within the plant-based protein sector in order to contribute to more sustainable agriculture. Jean-Baptiste Tailliez, sales director at IMPROVE said: “[There is a] need of high profile competences specialised in the protein valorization. R&D investments need to be developed for breakthrough technologies to create tomorrow’s proteins products.”

Developing domains: the technological roadmap

To build the IMPROVE portfolio, the company has a technological road map road in order to develop their expertise in many essential domains. Firstly, the company are looking at native protein extraction and the assessment of the properties. They are able to perform extraction and fractionation of seeds in dry form using a dehulling and sieving machine in combination with different mills such as a knife mill, roller mill or cryomill, in addition to air classifying. For the wet process, the company proposes machinery such as a pressurised reactor, extraction tank or hydrolysis tank, the different types of filtration – centrifugation , frontal and tangential – can then occur. Other technologies such as hydrocyclone, ohmic treatment, freeze drying and spray drying can purify proteins.

In addition to extraction and fractionation, the protein interaction can also be profiled through aggregation and crosslinking with other proteins or polysaccharides. Enzymatic hydrolysis can also be performed for functional, nutritional and biological properties, as the company are able to purify proteins by using non-proteasic activities, such as cellulase, hemicellulases and pectinase to remove proteins from the plant matrix.

One of the main driving forces behind the technological processes is the ability to modify the product to give the consumer an enhanced experience. Through the protease method digestibility of the protein can improve, as well as the texture and any allergenic properties. For markets such as the sports nutrition arena and the older generation, bio-availability profiles are key to modifying the reaction of both human and animal metabolism, as plant proteins are regularly used in specific feed applications.

Tailliez said: “We intend to develop an in vitro method to characterise allergenic properties. As we modify more proteins, there will be a higher the risk of producing neo allergens.” Technological advancements and scientific processes are changing the way that ingredients can be consumed and, consequently, the reaction that it may have on the human and animal body. Through the work of IMPROVE, the composition and physical properties of plant-based proteins looks to dramatically transform.