With waste-conscious consumers putting additional pressure on dairy manufacturers to deliver eco-friendly and health-oriented food choices, it would be welcome news that one start-up has developed a zero-waste method for the extraction of proteins, colors, flavors and other compounds derived from plants.
Many methods employed in protein extraction today involve chemical processes, while up to 80% of the source can be wasted or relegated to compost. Israel’s Gavan Technologies however has come up with an extraction process that ‘minimizes and even eliminates’ molecule exposure to heat, pressure, and oxidative conditions during extraction and isolation.
“Our multi-step technological platform enables us to take any plant source, isolate and extricate multiple proteins and other valuable components until the source is fully consumed,” explained Itai Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Gavan. “No part of the plant is left out. Moreover, the proteins maintain their original form - there is no resulting modification to their physical structure. All of the source’s nutritional and functional qualities are fully preserved.”
Maintaining source quality
The way the technology works is by producing different extracts from the same source over multiple phases or until all of the plant has been utilized. “Our fundamental process was inspired by controlled release mechanisms applied in the pharmaceutical industry,” a company spokesperson told DairyReporter. “Everything is performed in a non-disruptive manner, maintaining native protein properties and source quality, and preventing degradation on both sides of the equation. After the release, we developed a reversible protein modification and enhancement technology, which increases protein stability to high temperatures and extreme pH levels.”
Gavan’s low-heat utilization is particularly key to the quality of the extracts. “Common practices usually involve harsh methods for release of proteins from the source,” Gavan’s spokesperson continued. “Our process enables us to have a much better starting point, with gradual release products being 10 to 20 times more concentrated before we even touch them. That alone eliminates the need for any sort of pressure, sheer, or heat resulting from using aggressive extraction aids. That means products are maintained at a totally different level, quality and organoleptic traits in comparison to virtually anything else out there today.”
Asked how the company could guarantee that nutritional values are indeed preserved in the process, the spokesperson said: “The first proof is that our products don't have the usual ‘off’ flavors and scents associated with the oxidation of fats, the most oxidation-sensitive nutritional components.
“We have also demonstrated retaining native attributes and protein structure throughout all phases of our process, and even later, after going through pasteurization and low pH exposure.
“Our technology was tested on various unrelated sources and has proven effective. Nonetheless, each source and its derivatives has its own innate limitations and qualities that dictate its potential in different applications. Our technology enables each biomass source to realize that potential.”
To demonstrate the strengths of its extraction method, Gavan conducted a pilot trial with lentils, reporting that ‘92% protein isolate yielded additional value components including complex carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, and fat,’ which were converted into gluten-free flour and an emulsifier suitable as an egg white replacement.
In dairy, the technology could ‘enrich and enhance dairy products with various types of proteins without affecting taste or smell and while improving sustainability, nutritional value, functionality and positioning’. “Our technology will be able to produce more specific and accurate dairy proteins in terms of functionality and economical impact, with more tailored purpose and application,” the spokesperson said. “It will also enable better waste reduction and upcycling.”
The technology can also be utilized in the production of dairy hybrids to address the demands of health-conscious flexitarians. “Our technology can allow for better dairy alternatives, by supporting better substitutes or hybrid product as intermediates,” explained the spokesperson.
Price parity & food safety
Importantly, product manufacturers would not pay a premium for utilizing extracts derived from this zero-waste technology. “We are not looking for a premium,” Gavan’s spokesperson said. “We want to give a better option at the same price or less, filling the gap by leveraging our capability to produce multiple product streams simultaneously.
“To us, that is the true meaning of impact - utilizing all product streams and letting nothing go to waste to actually transition the alternative space into mainstream and giving access to a bigger crowd by offering price parity.”
Speaking of any health and safety aspects or regulations that the company may need to address, the spokesperson explained that this would only depend on the extraction source and its composition. “Our process is substantially a physical one - we do not deviate from the origin in terms of molecule structure and composition - and all of our processing aids are common and even traditional for the food industry.
“If we deal with recognized and well established sources such as soy, pea or whey, there is no issue whatsoever. If working with novel or relatively new sources, such as single-celled organisms, some derivatives might require registration as novel foods.”
While still under development, Gavan’s extracts are expected to be gradually rolled-out to the market in 2023.
“Our technology signifies a paradigm change, demonstrating how focusing on sustainable and circular production enables higher efficiencies and presents a better economic model,” Cohen concluded. “This, for Gavan, defines a true, positive ecological - and economical - impact and makes sustainability profitable.”