NIZO food research: ‘high quality plant proteins now possible’

Published: 12-11-2015

Plant-derived proteins provide an ideal answer to the increasing demand for nutritious protein-rich food, now and into the future as population growth further increases the need for proteins. However, many plant proteins available today have lost functionality during the isolation and drying processes. Scientists from NIZO food research have now developed a proven, affordable preparation process to improve plant protein quality, ready for wide application into food today.

Next step in utilizing the full potential of plant proteins

Laurice Pouvreau, Project manager Plant Proteins, states : “Plant proteins have traditionally been side-streams from oil production, like soya, or starch production, like potatoes and rice. The problem with many plant derived proteins is that during extraction and further processing, they lose functionality: the flavor deteriorates and they lose their solubility as proteins are denatured. Therefore, they unfortunately end up being used for animal feed.”

Now, NIZO has applied in-depth understanding of protein behavior, to find a way to keep the plant proteins in their native (their natural) state, even after extraction and processing. This is not done with new, expensive drying techniques, but by adapting critical steps during extraction and spray drying. Cost-effective production of native proteins is a major breakthrough, as these nutritious plant proteins show a huge potential for human foods. Plant proteins ingredients achieve a much higher value.

NIZO’s technology can be applied to produce easily-dissolved powders from a range of plant sources. By selecting the right source, NIZO can prepare protein ingredients with desirable functionalities, such as high volume foams for non-dairy cappuccinos, stable emulsions such as dressings, and soft gels, like desserts.

Example: pea protein
NIZO’s Protein Next research platform developed a gentle and cost-effective extraction method to obtain a native pea protein extract. Spray-drying conditions were optimized to keep proteins in their native state, retaining full functionality. Supported by NIZO’s powerful process simulation software, the protein quality can be predicted under varying process conditions. Process optimization ranging from extraction to drying gives a highly functional powder, both in terms of powder characteristics such as dispersibility and flowability, and solubility.

Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) showed that the ‘native’ state of the protein is preserved after spray-drying, meaning that the protein can achieve its full functional potential in application. The solubility of the protein powders remained high (>90% of the total amount of proteins compared to less than 50% in commercial proteins) even after 6 months storage at ambient temperature.

Fred van de Velde, Principal Scientist and group leader Protein Functionality, credits NIZO’s long history of dairy research with delivering the tools to optimize plant protein ingredients: “While each protein source is different, the tools needed to optimize protein ingredient quality remain the same. We are very happy that we are now able to develop solutions for many different protein companies to keep native, functional plant proteins.”

NIZO invites you to join the great leap forward in plant protein functionality!

About NIZO food research

Good food needs good science. NIZO food research is a leading center in proteins, bacteria and processing.  Their passion is to help make better foods and to be an incubator of innovation.  NIZO is an independent company and one of the most advanced contract research centers in the world.  NIZO brings the latest food technologies to life in their food grade pilot plant. Customers value their gains in product quality, sustainability, cost effectiveness and speed to market. More information and video on plant proteins via