Exploring the commercial potential of aquafaba

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Aquafaba vegan Dessert

Aquafaba may offer potential for food innovators looking to capitalise on the growing demand for vegan and plant-based food recipes.

Widely held to have been popularised in 2015 by an American software engineer called Goose Wohlt who had recently turned vegan and wanted to make vegan meringues, aquafaba hit the headlines last year when, along with twerk, emoji and facepalm, it was one of the 300 new words made available to scrabble players (in the US at least) and added to the game’s official dictionary.

It was also, along with the likes of jackfruit, miso and kefir, identified by UK supermarket Waitrose as one of the trailblazing food trends to watch out for this year.

Italian for ‘bean water’, aquafaba is the strained liquid from cans or jars of cooked legumes. The most popular is chickpea water, which thanks to Wohlt has found popularity among vegans who will whisk the starchy liquid to create a replacement to egg whites. It can thus be used in a host of sweet and savoury recipes, such as meringues, macaroons, mousse, mayonnaise and cocktails.

It remains a niche ingredient, however. Only eight aquafaba products were launched across Europe over the past three years, according to market research company Mintel. 

Whisking up a storm

A group of food technology students at the Technical University of Denmark recently won an innovation competition at the university – which challenges students to spend three months working on a project from concept development to production and marketing – with their creation of a vegan mouse made with aquafaba. They hope the mousse – called Vegan Delicious – will hit the shelves later this year.

Sarah Nyrup, one of the four students behind the winning mousse, told FoodNavigator that the product was borne out of their frustration at the lack of vegan desserts in the shops. “We are striving to have a more vegan lifestyle ourselves, so we went to the supermarkets in Denmark to see what food options there already is on the market,” ​she said.

“We observed that there is a lot of vegan meat substitutes, cheeses, spreads, yoghurts etc. but one of the only vegan desserts options on the market is ice cream. We wanted to expand the options for vegans to buy more ready-to-eat desserts. All of us are huge fans of mousse desserts, so we thought that mousse dessert might be a dessert option vegans is missing on the market. We came up with the idea of making a vegan mousse dessert based on aquafaba and with the taste of chocolate and raspberry.” 

Peaky binder

Aquafaba can easily be whipped into a foam thanks to its viscous quality. The peaks, however, are liable to collapse, so the challenge for the students was to find other ingredients to support the aquafaba.  

The choice fell on the vegan jelly agent agar, which is extracted from seaweed. “We wanted the texture and consistency in the mousses to be similar to mousse dessert made with dairy products,”​ continued Nyrup. “One of the main challenges in creating the vegan mousse was to obtain that texture and consistency. We have made several tests to obtain the right texture and flavour.”​ The product can be kept in the fridge for 10 days unopened, and for five days after opening.

Another challenge for the team were concerns about unhealthy chemicals in the liquid of canned food.“We know that there can be a content of lectin and phytate in aquafaba, but these values should be very low due to the soaking step before cooking (we are using the cooking water, not soaking water),”​ said Nyrup. “Moreover, the aquafaba we use has not been stored in a can, because we use aquafaba from the production of cooked chickpeas.”​ 

The student’s creation will go on to represent Denmark in the in the European Ecotrophelia competition​ in Cologne in October. But the ultimate plan is to hit the shelves. They envision the products in the Danish stores Kvickly, Føtex and Meny priced at 40 DKK (€5.36).

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