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New pea protein process aims to grow market

By Jess Halliday in Lestrem , 28-Apr-2010

Roquette has optimised the production process for its Nutralys pea protein to enable higher levels to be used without affecting taste. It expects the breakthrough to bring considerable new market opportunities.

The 77 year-old family-owned French company first launched its Nutralys range in early 2007. Historically the company’s main raw materials have been wheat, potatoes and rice, from which it extracts starch. Indeed, it first started exploiting peas as a source of starch, but quickly moved to make use of their high protein content too.

Its Nutralys pea protein ingredients are used in a wide range of food applications: to bind fat and water in meat, fish, processed foods, soups and sauces; for the protein enrichment of baked goods cereals and snacks; and in place of animal proteins in nutraceuticals, and sports and clinical nutrition products.

“We could enter wider number of applications but percentage of incorporation of protein always limited by taste,” Bruno Gehin, global market development manager for pea protein products told FoodNavigator.com.

This was particularly a problem for nutritional products, where high protein levels are desirable. In these, the original Nutralys S85F ingredient could only really be used at levels of up to 10 per cent. Higher than this, and the green, vegetal notes interfered with taste and odour acceptability – although there is greater scope in savoury products than in sweet.

To enable higher levels in these and in dairy products, the company embarked on a two year project to adjust the process and improve the taste and odour.

The new version now being launched can be used brings a “significant improvement for these applications”, and retains the good solubility and suspension behaviours of the original.

“Taste comes first for manufacturers of food prdcucts and also for consumers. It’s the first criteria in choice of a product,” said Audrey Taffin, market development manage for Europe.

Process changes

Roquette set about evaluating the volatile flavour compounds in pea protein isolates, and identifying which molecules are linked to green notes. Once it had quantified the presence of these, the next challenge was to find a way to avoid their formation or eliminate them.

Most importantly, it did not want to change the water-based extraction process and introduce solvent or chemical extraction, because this would impair the clean, sustainable image of the ingredient.

It started by looking at the supply, storage and handling of the pea raw materials.

“We saw clearly when pea not stored in good conditions, there is an impact on taste,” said Gehin. It also became clear that extraction of the protein should be carried out as soon as possible after grinding.

Next, it looked at ways to adjust all the parameters in the production process, such as increasing or decreasing the pH and temperature, changing the pump action or how it is put into the driers, and the time and temperature of drying.

Growing the market

Gehin said that the new method does add production costs for Roquette, but the price of Nutralys S85F for customers is unaffected. The priority is to enlarge the market, and by opening up new applications and allowing higher levels to be used, he predicts the pea protein market will increase by 30 to 35 per cent in the next three years.

The main markets for pea protein are currently the US and the EU, but there is also great potential in developing countries, where higher demand for meat and milk is pushing prices up and there is a keen need for an affordable alternative source of protein.

In particular, there could be potential for pea protein’s use in beverages in the developing world.

“We are in a position to create new types of food,” said Taffin.

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