Globally, 61% of consumers have shown their interest in plant-based proteins over animal proteins due to ethical, sustainability and health reasons. In specific, 62% of the consumers in the Asia-Pacific region said that they want to buy plant-based meat alternatives (PBMA)13. PBMA are products made to imitate meat while earlier products like tofu, tempeh and seitan were meant to replace meat. These earlier meat alternatives do not favour flexitarians and real meat eaters as real meat tends to offer better organoleptic characteristics and nutritional profiles12.
With technological advancements, the newer PBMA can now mimic the taste, texture, smell, and appearance of actual meat. Plant-based burgers, nuggets, minced meat, sausages, and seafood are now on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Nevertheless, texture, taste and appearance are the three main challenges faced during the development of PBMA and the use of ingredients becomes the key to replicate the meaty characteristics8.
When it comes to texture, new technologies are advancing the PBMA industry. Spun vegetable protein (SVP) has been introduced as the earliest PBMA via the spinning fibre technology, but SVP fibres were brittle and lacked tenacity2,11. As time passes, emerging technologies including high-moisture extrusion and shear-cell process are used to produce a layered fibrous structure which closely matches the appearance and texture of real meat without reducing nutritional value1,9.
Other than that, selection of plant protein is also crucial. Legumes such as peas, lentils, lupine, chickpea, faba bean and mungbean are suitable protein source to develop PBMA. Most legume proteins present good emulsion and foam stabilization capacities, especially for mungbean and chickpeas which shows good gelling properties, whereas pea proteins act as binders, fillers and functional improvers, hence demonstrating greater potential for meat analogues. Furthermore, wheat gluten act as a binder and structuring agent that produce thin protein films upon simple deformation and elongation, transforming the meat analogue dough into a fibrous structure material, known as textured wheat protein (TWP)7. Moreover, the combination of jackfruit pulp (26%), texturized soy (26%), mushroom (17.14%), and wheat gluten (4.3%) can produce similar texture and characteristics to real meat and is preferred by consumers looking for vegan products10.
Umami, the powerful fifth taste, is the foundation of the savoury deliciousness of meat flavour6. Yeast extract is a natural and vegan flavour enhancer that can add savoury, full-bodied or natural umami flavour to all kinds of food preparations and has been recognized as an ‘MSG-free’ and cleaner umami substitute3,5. Moreover, mushrooms tend to provide meat flavour as they contain high amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids10.
Other than that, appearance is another equally important element in the new generation of PBMA products4. Evolved from the earlier generation, veggie burgers made with a combination of plant-protein products and finely diced vegetables are a good alternative to meat burgers, however, they certainly don’t taste or look like the real deal. Nowadays, meat analogues have strived to mimic the transformation of colour from initial fresh raw meat to final well-cooked meat. Beet juice or powder is applied to the burger patty to make it ‘bleed’ like real meat. As well as soy leghemoglobin, not just only imparts reddish-brown colour, but also contributes to flavour characteristics during the cooking process due to the presence of iron-rich heme4.
On a final note,
As consumers across the globe try to cut down their meat intake, many are shifting to PBMA to fill in this void. However, flexitarians are still used to the smell, taste, and texture of real meat and they are expecting products that are as close as possible to actual meat. As a result, meat alternative products need to continuously evolve to attain comparable textures, flavours, and even more bloody and well-cooked appearance to their meat counterparts.
At DPO International, we are honoured to be partners with Beneo and Halcyon Proteins to bring you a wide range of ingredient choices that will provide better organoleptic characteristics in PBMA.
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2Featherstone, S. (2015). 8 – Ingredients Used in the Preparation Of Canned Foods: Textured Vegetable Proteins. A Complete Course in Canning and Related Processes, 2, 147-211. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-85709-678-4.00008-7
3Ferrer, B. (2022). Cleaning Up Recipes: Industry Leverages Functional Switches Toward Simpler, Natural Reformulations. Food Ingredient First.
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5Kale, P., Mishra, A., & Annapure, U. S. (2022). Development of Vegan Meat Flavour: A Review on Sources and Techniques. Future Foods, 100149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fufo.2022.100149
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7Kyriakopoulou, K., Keppler, J. K., & van der Goot, A. J. (2021). Functionality of ingredients and additives in plant-based meat analogues. Foods, 10(3), https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10030600
8Lamas, M. (2022). How scientists make plant-based foods taste and look more like meat. The Conversation.
9McHugh, T. (2019). How Plant-Based Meat and Seafood are Processed. Food Technology Magazine, 73(10).
10Mishal, S., Kanchan, S., Bhushette, P., & Sonawane, S. K. (2022). Development of Plant Based Meat Analogue. Food Science and Applied Biotechnology, 5(1), 45. https://doi.org/10.30721/fsab2022.v5.i1.169
11Mu, B., Xu, H., Li, W., Xu, L., & Yang, Y. (2019). Spinnability and rheological properties of globular soy protein solution. Food Hydrocolloids, 90, 443–451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodhyd.2018.12.049
12Singh, M., Trivedi, N., Enamala, M. K., Kuppam, C., Parikh, P., Nikolova, M. P., & Chavali, M. (2021). Plant-based meat analogue (PBMA) as a sustainable food: a concise review. European Food Research and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00217-021-03810-1
13Vegconomist. (2021). 61% of Consumers Worldwide Describe Plants as a Preferred Protein Source. Vegconomist – The Vegan Business Magazine.