‘Brands want a broader toolbox of ingredients’: Equinom develops ‘first-of-its-kind’ high-protein sesame seed to transform ‘future of plant-based foods’

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/kuppa_rock
Image: Getty/kuppa_rock

Related tags: Protein, alternative protein, equinom, sesame

Israeli seed specialist Equinom says its new variety of protein-rich sesame seed could help the solve the taste and texture challenges of plant-based food and beverages.

The company has joined forces with Mexican seed producer and exporter Dipasa to develop a high-protein Smarter Sesame Protein which it said will be the ‘catalyst for sesame to emerge as a foundational building block for innovative plant-based foods’.

Equinom said it expects the global sesame seeds market to reach $17.77 billion by 2025, partly as a result of its growing popularity as a functional ingredient in plant-based diets. But up until now, due to sesame’s relatively low level of protein -- which is about 23% -- it has primarily been used as a cooking oil, in spreads or condiments, or in bakery and confectionery products, and is not commonly used as a core ingredient in plant-based foods.

However, by combining the AI-technology capabilities of Equinom with Dipasa’s production and distribution capabilities they will produce a sesame concentrate that boasts 65-70% protein content.

“Equinom’s vision is to enable the creation of plant-based foods of the future with clean-label products that are naturally nutritious and tasty,”​ said Gil Shalev, PHD, founder, and CEO of Equinom. “With Dispasa, we’re using our AI technology to maximize the use of raw materials for optimized performance in finished food products. Collaborating with companies that share this same vision is critical in order to ultimately change the way we will feed the world’s growing population.”

“Protein content has been the main barrier for sesame protein,”​ added César Coello, CEO of Dipasa. “Having the ability to supply a sesame flour/Sesamina with a higher protein content will provide customers with an even better alternative to commonly used plant-based proteins, because of the multiple characteristics that comply with current market demands: Non-GMO, Organic, Kosher/Halal Certified, Gluten-Free. Combined with a very neutral flavor profile that makes it an extremely adaptable ingredient, Smarter Sesame Protein will be a unique addition to the plant-based protein industry.”

Colour, taste and structure benefits  

Rick Mignella, EVP & Managing Director, North America at Equinom, told FoodNavigator the company wanted to bring an alternative plant-based ingredient to the marketplace that could be used in a host of food applications thanks to its neutral colour and taste. He said the ingredient could also bring structural benefits to finished food and beverage products.

“We now can produce a sesame protein that would have about 70% concentration, which allows it to compete within the broader portfolio of crops being used - not only in plant based foods but a wide variety of foods where you’re looking for come protein fortification, and perhaps as a bulking agent for structure.”

He added that sesame’s light beige colour and pleasant nutty taste lends itself well to many different applications. “You also have some other attributes like calcium and magnesium in sesame as well.”

Equinom is planting and developing 50 acres of seeds before sampling the product to the industry early next year. The company hope to have a product that is competitive with soy and pea.

“The industry works primarily with soy,”​ noted Mignella. “It's accessible, it's cost effective, it has incredible functionality in a wide variety of applications. 50% of the plant-based market uses soy in some fashion and up to 85% of all the soy goes into some sort of meat products as a filler. Wheat makes up 45% of the plant-based market and the rest is made up of pea and other novel proteins." 

Equinom therefore believes there's an appetite for the leading brand owners to have a ‘broader toolbox of ingredients to formulate all foods with, not just plant-based foods’.

“By elevating sesame into a higher protein concentrate with a pleasing colour and a pleasing taste, it should be very attractive alternative to the food industry,”​ Mignella told us. "This is suited for any product wherever you can use a pleasant, nutty flavoured ingredient that delivers 70% protein. It could be in alternative meat and dairy products, protein shakes and bars and ice cream.”

Equinom’s plan is further boosted by Dipasa’s long track record of production and distribution, he said. "Leading brand owners around the world that are using soy, pea, wheat and rice proteins desire to have alternatives that have a validated supply chain behind them.

"There are novel proteins all over the world, but whether or not they can be commercialised and be used by brands is another question entirely.... we can show a clear path of delivering this concentrate to the leading brand owners.” 

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