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New proteins must stand on their own

For both climate and health reasons, we must increase our intake of proteins from plant sources and more sustainable animal sources. In practice, this is about a protein shift where new products from sustainable protein sources must be developed. Lina Svanberg, research manager at RISE, believes that the shift is already underway.

In December 2018, SVT published a SIFO study in which 56 percent of respondents stated that they reduced their consumption of meat for the sake of the climate. Three years earlier the figure was 47 percent.

– There's an awful lot happening in this area right now. People are changing their consumption patterns. One example is that more and more people are becoming semi-vegetarian. I don’t think that these are temporary trends, but are instead more permanent changes. The health and environmental aspects have given both consumers and the food industry strong driving forces, says Lina Svanberg, research manager at RISE.

Green and blue proteins

She and her colleagues are working on methods to extract proteins from raw material from the plant kingdom, so-called green proteins, and how these can become functional food ingredients with respect to taste, texture and nutrient content. But they are also researching how we can improve on the use of blue proteins from the seafood industry, which have less environmental impact and are healthier than meat.

- This may be to do with residual streams in the form of fish offal, which is currently mainly used as biofuel. But no matter what the raw material we have employees at RISE with a great knowledge of how to best extract and use proteins in different foods. And that is something that interests food businesses, says Lina Svanberg.

The right taste, texture and smell

The foundation is the link between raw materials and their protein content. But it is also a case of being able to adapt a protein to the right target products.

– We do a lot of work on characterising the functional properties of proteins and how they are affected by other ingredients. In this way, we can match different proteins to suitable end products, such as extruded “meat substitutes" or fermented foods. It must taste right, and have the right consistency, and smell. Everything must tally, and one of our strengths is that we work with the entire chain from cultivation attempts to product development and consumer testing, says Lina Svanberg.

Time for a lasting protein shift

At the moment, RISE is involved in several research and innovation projects together with several Swedish food companies.

– Working with flavours is a big trend right now. Some of the alternative raw materials for protein have a funny taste that you need to remove in order for them to be really good. Lots of people are prepared to make sacrifices in order to eat climate-smart and healthier, but only if the food tastes good, says Lina Svanberg.

She believes that the time might now be right for a more lasting protein shift:

– Yes, the increased concern for the climate in combination with health trends ensures that both consumers and industry have strong driving forces to achieve a change.

So far, the focus on changing the consumption of proteins for environmental and health reasons has been mainly to do with products that mimic traditional animal products such as burgers or small pieces of meat, so-called meat substitute products..

According to Lina Svanberg, other products are now also beginning to be noticed.

– People are increasingly talking about products from alternative sources of protein standing on their own feet and not just emulating what already exists. I believe that there is considerable potential for future development, says Lina Svanberg.