HydroTop is made of a blend of cellulose-derived hydrocolloids and a blend of vegetable-based fibres with a high water-binding capacity.
Head of product development for meat and sausage products at Hydrosol, Dr Carsten Carstens, said: “First an emulsion is made with HydroTop High Gel 30, oil and water. This stabilises the hydratised texturate through thermos-reversible gelling, meaning that heating the formable mass turns it into a product that is pleasantly firm to the bite.”
Adding this emulsion to a plant-based texturate creates a formable, slightly sticky meat analogue comparable to a ground meat mass used for meatballs or burger patties.
“The main difference with other products which may be based on starches or hydrocolloids like carrageenan that don’t give same juiciness or same bite, is that this blend retains the moisture but, upon bite, [gives] a nice juiciness.”
“That’s what we love about meat - it has a response to the bite but isn’t rubbery. It has a certain springiness and firmness,” Carstens added.
Hydrosol has tested the emulsifier-stabiliser in a range of plant-based texturates, such as soy, wheat-based gluten, lupin, and pea protein and compared them for
mouthfeel, water binding properties, taste and colour.
“It’s a universally binding system so the functionality works for them all but the choice of texturate affects how fibrous or the final product is and its flavour,” said Carstens. “Some have a toasty or meaty flavour because of the extrusion process. The wheat gluten for us it gave the most satisfying results.”
The firm wanted to explore product possibilities in the convenience, snack-as-you-go and bite-sized categories from breaded vegetable sticks to Chinese dumplings, but has also had requests from customers enquiring about its use in desserts as a custard filling.
For first and next generation meat alternatives
Despite the diversity of applications that HydrTop could be used for, the company chose to promote the meat alternatives because of the market interest.
"We are an R&D company so we like to explore all opportunities but our customers want the products that are most relevant for the market. We had many requests for chicken nugget alternatives, so it was the most obvious choice.”
In Carsten’s view, plant-based alternatives that seek to replicate the taste and texture of meat are ‘first generation’ alternatives.
“But the second and third generation of meat alternatives will be products that proudly boast about their vegetable content with the vegetables visible, and that don’t resemble meat protein anymore,” he said.
Hydrosol says it’s ready to cater for this market too; the adhesive properties of HydroTop means that vegetables with smooth surfaces, such as corn or peas, can be added to the mass.
Available in powder form, HydroTop is free from flavour enhancers and phosphates and has a shelf life of two years when stored at room temperature. It can also be frozen without altering the functional characteristics.
It is also suitable for formed, ground meat such as ham and fish, helping them to retain their shape and juiciness.
Headquartered in Ahrensburg near Hamburg, Hydrosol supplies stabilisers for dairy, ice cream, ready meals and meat products. It launched HydroTop two months ago, and has secured deals with manufacturers in Scandinavia, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.