All white rice starts life as brown rice. A milling process removes the husk, bran, and germ. This increases white rice’s shelf life but much of the intrinsic nutritional value is lost in the process, which strips the rice of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Starch produced from rice sees greater nutrient loss still, losing as much as 70% of the nutrients originally contained in brown rice during processing.
Seeing the potential offered by brown rice for plant-based products, Italian alternative dairy food maker MozzaRisella micronized brown rice sprouts to look at how the ingredient could be used in product applications.
The company was in for a ‘surprise’. The nutritional profile of the rice sprouts surpassed expectations. The micronized rice sprouts were found to contain 20 amino acids, such as gamma-oryzanol or gamma-aminobutyric, as well as minerals, vitamins and proteins.
Gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) is a neurotransmitter and this amino acid has a very specific function - it is ‘practically a cell activator’ giving cells their cue to begin to reproduce themselves, according to MozzaRisella.
In supplementation, GABA is taken to relieve anxiety, improve mood, reduce symptoms of PMS, and treat ADHD. It is also used to promote lean muscle growth, burn fat and stabilise blood pressure.
What does that mean? According to MozzaRisella, at the point the rice starts sprouting during germination it multiplies the amino acids tenfold. So, if white rice had an amino acid profile of one, rice sprouts have an amino acid value of 10.
“When the seed germinates, the fibres triple, other elements quadruple and the gamma-aminobutyric multiplies tenfold,” Mozza Risella explained.
All-natural process maintains nutrition
MozzaRisella has developed sprouted brown rice into a variety of products such as cheese, yoghurt and ice creams alternatives.
“MozzaRisella is the first and only plant-based product line from germinated brown rice. The products are not only free from lactose, gluten and soya, but also benefit from the health advantages of using purely sprouted brown rice to maximise nutrition. As the only brand of its kind currently available on the food market, we are committed to only ever use 100% brown spouted rise in [our] products due to the significant health benefits,” co-founder Franco Vessio claimed.
The company uses an all-natural process that maintain the nutritional profile of the ingredient and keep the high amino acids content.
“The rice is grown in permaculture respecting and preserving the environment. Afterwards the brown rice is sprouted. It is without any processing to keep all the natural nutrients. The process is all natural and the flavour is only balanced with apple vinegar and a pinch of salt,” Vessio told FoodNavigator.
MozzaRisella’s vegan cheese alternative consists of the brown sprouted rice compound, water, and other natural ingredients. It is a ‘very easy recipe’ but requires a ‘specific process and technique’ which is patent-protected.
To differentiate on taste, MozzaRisella took a year to test each recipe. The company’s formulations are crafted using natural herbs and spices, including oregano, turmeric, lemon peel and juice, tomato skin and seaweed. For example, the smoked MozzaRisella flavour is achieved without using ‘smoked’ flavourings and instead by utilising ‘the right balance’ of turmeric to deliver a ‘light smoked flavour’ with additional antioxidant benefit.
The products are suitable for vegan consumers and those with specific dietary needs, such as lactose intolerance. The rice cheese alternative has melting qualities that mean it can be used on pizzas, instead of mozzarella.
“Rice cheese alternatives are suitable for everyone - whether celiac, lactose intolerant, allergic to certain ingredients or simply wanting to find a new way to increase health and wellbeing naturally. With food allergies estimated at 70% and continuing to rise globally, the absence of food allergens makes the rice cheese alternative a particularly fitting option for those who choose a plant-based diet,” Vessio said.
‘Plant-based doesn’t always mean healthy’
MozzaRisella wants to differentiate itself from the other plant-based options on the market which, Vessio noted, don’t always justify the health halo they enjoy.
“Unfortunately, plant based doesn’t always mean healthy, but MozzaRisella tries to make it healthy, cruelty free and good for the environment,” the Italian entrepreneur explained.
It can sometimes be difficult to explain detailed nutritional information in a way that is accessible to consumers. Nevertheless, Vessio said that the new brand has already received a warm reception and has gained listings with a number of major restaurants and food service operators.
“More and more consumers are proactively avoiding certain ingredients, driven by medical reasons, healthier lifestyle choices, ethical or environmental concerns. Whilst MozzaRisella products are still very new to the market, once the consumers learn about the product, cooking qualities and health benefits, they are quickly becoming the product of choice for plant-based eaters as well as high street food chains melted on vegan pizzas, like Pizza Express, Zizzi or Ask Italian, many independent restaurants, schools and canteens.”
The company’s largest market is still its domestic market, Italy, where it is present in 'almost all' supermarkets. It also has distribution in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Holland and the US. Plans are underway to expand into Australia and New Zealand ‘very soon’, Vessio added.
MossaRisella says that by turning the brown rice sprout into ‘everyday products’ it hopes to make this emerging superfood ‘easily accessible and available to all’.