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New ingredients and foods: new strengths for flexitarians

Written by IAR Food&Feed Community

Cellular meat, 3D food, mycoproteins or plant proteins are now proteins are now being brought to the consumer’s table. New foods and ingredients from research that will be able to meet the alternative demands of certain consumers.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of healthy and sustainable food.

They are asking for more transparency in the products they consume and more trust in the food sector. To achieve this, they are being offered new tools such as applications on their smartphones or more informative packaging.  For example, the Nutriscore (1) can inform the consumer about the nutritional quality of what they are about to consume, based on the recommendations of

Nutrition experts in terms of what to promote (fibre, protein…) or to limit  (high energy, saturated fatty acids fatty acids, salt, sugars, etc.). Thus, digital digital technologies and hyperconnection help the consumer to maintain good health through a  connected diet. If the impact  of our food on our health is a key concern, pleasure remains the number one criterion in the purchasing act (2).

Consumers increasingly want to give their food an ethical sense (3). In this sense, they are more and more attentive to the environmental balance sheet of what they consume. 6% of French people say they are prepared to buy a more expensive product if it is more environmentally friendly than its competitors(4). To meet the many expectations of of the consumer as well as the recommendations of nutritionists, new ingredients are being developed.

Let’s start with the ingredients of plant origin, rich in protein-rich plant ingredients, whether they are from legumes (peas, beans),  cereals, such as oats, or oilseeds such as rapeseed or  sunflower. Plant proteins have several advantages: they are easily assimilated by the body thanks to their high digestibility, and they are sustainable. These are proteins of terrestrial origin. In a recent study(5) on the behaviour of French consumers, 30% of respondents said they were ‘very’ “or ‘quite interested’ in new proteins such as those derived  from algae. A daily consumption of these ingredients is growing beyond consumption as food supplements, whether it be protein from microalgae or duckweed, or gelling agents from macroalgae

In addition, the following are recommended ingredients by nutritionists and favoured by the consumers, new dietary fibres such as pea, oat, wheat or corn fibre. Some of these fibres are completely water soluble and are of interest because of their satiogenic effect and low glycaemic impact. Others are partially insoluble in water and, in addition to their nutritional role, also play a role as a texturising agent. Some of these fibres are capable of retaining 8 times their weight in water, which makes it possible to limit, for example, the phenomena of exudation during the defrosting of foodstuffs.

But it is certainly in the field of innovative proteins that the most revolutionary prospects are being opened. New biotechnologies, first of all, make it possible to develop (i.e. to multiply) animal cells in a sterile and highly controlled culture medium. It is thus possible to replicate an animal muscle tissue  (steak, tenderloin), whether it is a farmed animal (beef, chicken), fish or shellfish,  without going through the traditional breeding process. This allows us to meet new ethical demands for food products. These developments around these new modes of agriculture still raise questions, especially economic ones.

Furthermore, progress in fermentation technologies, make it now possible to to produce on an industrial scale by micro-organisms  products identical to their animal counterparts: proteins (casein, ovalbumin), galactooligo- saccharides, pigments, etc. Once separated from the micro-organisms that produced them during fermentation, they can be used in the production of vegetarian foods.

These new ingredients will be included in new food formulations, in line with new societal and environmental expectations. Vegetable and algal proteins will be able to be incorporated into culinary preparations such as tempeh. Vegetable proteins and mycoproteins, which are well suited for texturising, will naturally be incorporated in alternatives to meat with similar functional and sensory properties. Vegetable proteins are now also used in many plant-based drinks and ‘plant-based cheeses’.

A 3D printed meal

New processes are also emerging, such as 3D printing. These new processes require ingredients with suitable properties. The EU-funded PERFORMANCE(6) project, recently presented its vision of this future, offering a 3D printed meal for elderly people with dysphagia as well as chewing and swallowing difficulties. These new foods are enriched with specific nutrients according to the size, weight, gender and impairments of the individual dysphagia patient and their dosage can be adjusted to maintain a consistently well-balanced diet at all times. In conclusion, the development of new plant protein ingredients is perfectly in line with the new public health policies that encourage a transition to ‘flexitarianism’, a diet already followed by 40% of French households. At the national level, the Plan Protéines végétales supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and the ad hoc support plan run by FranceAgriMer, and the Call for Expressions of Interest “Food Needs launched by the Banque Publique d’Investissement and the i-Nov competition on the theme of “Protein and Ferments of the Future”. At the European level, the support programme for research and innovation Horizon Europe is preparing to launch its call for projects in the framework of its ‘food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and the environment”. This call is part of the European Farm2Fork strategy. It is intended to support the development of sustainable and competitive protein crop systems involving stakeholders along the entire value chain. ◗

2020 has been a good year for the foodscience  ecosystem in Europe. However, it is still overshadowed by what is happening on other continents. Investments must accelerate considerably in the short term for trends such as plant-based, but also in long-term trends. Public investments such as the European Union’s Green Deal could play a role in this regard (Source Foodtech in Europe report 2021 by DigitalFoodLab).


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