How can more-sustainable ingredient sources and processes be used to manufacture attractive food products is the central question in Sustainable ingredients. The project is investigating the use of mildly-refined ingredients, and replacing animal proteins with plant proteins.
With a growing global population, food consumption will exceed that of today. Since raw materials, energy and water are becoming scarcer, we need to adapt to more sustainable sources and production methods for our food. These methods may lie in using other food sources such as plant proteins instead of animal proteins and in using milder processing routes. The latter may include fewer purification steps, in turn implying the use of more complex mixtures as an ingredient, as opposed to first purifying these complex mixtures and then mixing the individual ingredients in the right proportions. In these adaptations we have to safeguard product quality, i.e. the sum of structure, mechanical (including rheological) properties, texture, taste, smell, safety and nutritional value. All this requires a detailed knowledge on how the nature of a sustainable source and sustainable processing methods affect ingredient composition, and how the consequent compositional complexity affects final product quality.
In the current project we will investigate to what extent more sustainable ingredient sources and processes can be used to manufacture products with desirable structural and mechanical properties. The strategy is twofold. One is to start with mildly purified plant extracts, investigate bulk and interfacial properties for specific product types, and explore the effects of further purification of the ingredients towards less complex composition. The other is to start with mixtures of well-purified ingredients from the same plant source, investigate the same bulk and interfacial properties, and explore the effects of mixing of the ingredients towards more complex composition. For both strategies, plant-based protein mixtures are also mixed with dairy proteins to get insights in the effect of replacement of animal by plant protein on food product structural and mechanical properties.
In particular we aim a) to understand the conditions to prepare products with desirable structural and mechanical properties from more sustainable ingredient sources, b) to quantify sustainability effects of source and processing methods for a set of sources and processes, and c) to formulate main lever rules that relate the properties of sustainably produced complex ingredient mixtures for a given source to desired product properties, like structural and mechanical properties on all relevant length scales.
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