Consumer interest in plant-based proteins such as pulses and certain cereals is on the increase. But Finnish researchers believe the potentially meteoric rise of pulses could be halted by a somewhat prosaic problem.
“Beans and certain cereal grains contain notable amounts of short-chain carbohydrates that can cause gastrointestinal problems through quick fermentation by the gut bacteria. These Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Monosaccharides And Polyols (FODMAP ) compounds place an obstacle in wider adoption of plant-based foods.”
In short, flatulence.
VTT is therefore on the hunt for interested industry experts to take part in a joint research project, scheduled to start in Q4 2017, to find solutions to this problem.
The project is open to partners from across the food value chain, who could help steering the work, test any new ingredients, run pilot-scale tests and co-finance the work.
VTT will contribute with skills in biotechnology, enzymology and protein production as well as engineering, microbiology and ingredient technology. It also has the relevant analytic tools needed to monitor the improvement in digestive conditions.
'An unexplored field'
Research team leader for Food at VTT, Emilia Nordlund, told FoodNavigator the aim is not necessarily to directly the affect the protein component but to reduce anti-nutritional factors present in plant protein matrices like cereals and legumes.
“Our ultimate aim to make it easier for consumers to consume more plant based protein foods in their diet without intestinal discomfort. By this way, intake of plant-based protein would be increased as well.”
Nordland said that while there are some enzyme preparations available on the market, “this is clearly an unexplored field”.
“At the moment enzymes are often used for protein isolates, and it would relevant to develop solutions to protein concentrates or plant-based materials with notable protein content. In this initiative we are, in addition to enzymes, looking into the microbes to modify the plant-based matrixes.”
VTT already has a team of around 10 who will participate but says it is always willing to work with external experts “when relevant”.
A budget for the project has not yet been finalized.