More than half of consumers across the globe are interested in plant-based foods and beverages – for a variety of reasons. No wonder the industry is busy meeting their needs by developing alternatives to meat, fish, dairy, bakery or sweets. But did you know that replacing animal-derived ingredients with plant-based alternatives also offers cost saving potential for food manufacturers? In light of significant price increases for key raw materials, such as eggs and meat, the BENEO-Technology Center developed a range of hybrid or even fully plant-based recipes with various BENEO ingredients that also convince in terms of taste and texture. I spoke with Dr Isabel Trogh, Customer Technical Support Manager at BENEO, to learn more.
What is the biggest technical challenge when it comes to replacing animal-derived ingredients with plant-based alternatives?
The main challenge consists in finding a suitable alternative that offers similar functionalities as the original ingredient. When looking at plant-based bakery development, egg replacement is considered to be one of the biggest challenges. That’s because eggs perform numerous functional roles that also influence the taste and texture of the end product. With those two aspects being key purchasing factors for consumers, it’s crucial to achieve convincing sensorial results. With a portfolio of viable ingredients and the right application know-how this challenge can be overcome.
At the BENEO-Technology Center you conducted trials to evaluate faba bean protein concentrate as a possible solution for egg replacement. What results did you achieve and what does this mean for cost reduction?
We trialled this clean label ingredient in several applications. As a first important milestone, we achieved to replace all the eggs in a muffin recipe with the help of faba bean protein concentrate. The comparison of the reference muffin and our egg-free version revealed that the muffins with faba bean protein concentrate were very close in volume and appearance to the original product. The plant-based muffins also had a similar fine crumb structure, pleasant taste and crumb firmness comparable to that of the reference products even after two weeks of storage.
After this trial, we also developed prototype recipes for total egg replacement in other applications. For example, we created a plant-based meringue that offers a pleasant taste and good aerated texture as well as a shortbread cookie with a similar appearance and sandy texture as the reference product. In a pound cake recipe, we achieved to replace 50% of the eggs – and are continuing our trials to optimize this.
In terms of cost reduction, our test recipes require a lower dosage of faba bean protein concentrate than the dosage of eggs needed in the original recipe. Depending on local raw material prices, this can result in lower recipe costs.
Which technical properties make faba bean protein concentrate a suitable solution for egg replacement?
Besides being a good source of plant-based protein with a great essential amino acid profile, BENEO’s faba bean protein concentrate has a high solubility, as well as excellent emulsifying and good foaming, binding and thickening properties. Furthermore, this powder ingredient has a light colour and a mild taste. An additional advantage for manufacturers is that faba bean ingredients are easy to store and to incorporate into formulations, while offering a constant high quality. All this makes BENEO’s faba bean protein concentrate a perfect clean label solution for total or partial egg replacement.
You just mentioned partial egg replacement – this means that the end product is not fully plant-based. Are such hybrid products of interest for the food industry?
Indeed, next to fully plant-based recipes, there is also considerable consumer interest in hybrid products, that combine animal and vegetal ingredients – especially among flexitarians. A recent global survey on behalf of BENEO revealed that 7 in 10 flexitarians would definitely or probably buy a meat hybrid. From a technical perspective, it is actually easier to develop hybrid products where you combine animal- and plant-based ingredients than making fully plant-based recipes. As a hybrid formulation still partly includes animal-based products, there is no need to find alternative ingredients that can fulfil all their functionalities and therefore it is less challenging. Replacing part of the animal-based ingredients can still allow to reduce the recipe cost, while obtaining a product with great taste and texture.
At the BENEO-Technology Center you developed hybrid burgers with BENEO’s new Meatless® range. Which ingredients did you use and how did they impact the end product?
In one of our hybrid burger recipes, Meatless® faba bean flakes are used to reduce meat by 40%. Depending on the raw material prices, this partial meat replacement can reduce the recipe cost significantly. Besides this main advantage, the hybrid burger has a firm texture, juicy mouthfeel, nice colour and great taste. Meatless® flakes are easy to implement in the recipe and production process and have a great freeze-thaw stability. At the same time, the ingredient allows to increase the fibre content of the end product. In addition, a Meatless® binder can be used in this recipe to keep the burger mass together nicely during preparation, while also providing a good bite in the final product.
Thank you for sharing these insights into the manifold benefits of plant-based ingredients – I will definitely keep an eye out for more exciting developments at the BENEO-Technology Center.
Curious to see how BENEO’s ingredients are used in plant-based culinary dishes? Then check out this article.