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Sunflower Shines as Texturate with Structure Akin to Muscle Tissue

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Plant-based alternatives to meat and sausage remain in high demand by consumers, and this interest and the trend to this product category have scarcely been affected by the current health crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic. On the contrary, awareness of the importance of sustainable and balanced nutrition is rising worldwide. Industry experts expect to see continuous growth in plant-based alternative products in the coming years.

“Whether for ethical or environmental reasons, reduced meat consumption is the future of the food industry. This is even more important in view of the need to supply a growing world population with sustainably sourced, protein-rich meat alternatives,” said Dr. Matthias Moser, managing director of Ahrensburg, Germany-headquartered Hydrosol.

This specialist producer of food stabilizing and texturing systems is now working with raw materials supplier All Organic Treasures (AOT). The goal of their cooperation is to combine the expertise of both companies and offer customers in the plant-based meat alternative sector a wider range of products with individualized and exclusive solutions. The focus is on allergen- and GMO-free protein sources with a positive image, like sunflower.

“Our own Sunflower Family brand is already successful in food retail with the SonnenblumenHACK product. We have built a special reputation and capabilities in the area of sunflower protein-based vegan products, like burger ready mixes,” said Fabian Breisinger, managing director of Wiggensbach, Germany-based AOT. “Our plant-based proteins, especially Heliaflor, are derived through the partial de-oiling of high-quality raw materials. During production we take special care to protect their beneficial properties. As a result, our products retain their native protein structure and content of important nutrients like B vitamins, secondary plant substances and minerals. This distinguishes them from conventional protein products. The functional properties, especially those of our sunflower protein, are further significantly affected only by the production process.”

The proteins are a by-product of sunflower oil manufacture, so there are clear advantages in terms of sustainability. Hydrosol uses three different texturates for the production of meat and sausage alternatives – a dry texturate for plant-based mince like burger patties, a dry texturate with fibrous texture for foods like nuggets, and a wet texturate with a structure similar to muscle tissue for plant-based filet strips.

“Plant-based muscle tissue alternatives remain a big challenge for the industry,” pointed out Florian Bark, a product manager at Hydrosol. “Their authentic meat-like structure gives wet texturates from plant protein great potential. With the expertise of AOT as manufacturer of these sunflower protein wet texturates, and our knowledge of stabilization and texturing of plant-based meat alternatives, we can develop a broad spectrum of individual product solutions that give our customers unique selling propositions on the market.”

Another plus point is that the texturates are available in conventional as well as organic versions. Meanwhile, there remains the challenge of getting the color and flavor of the sunflower texturates just right, for example to avoid unpleasant aftertastes.

Faux chicken strips with hot pepper spices.

“Sunflower texturates are naturally dark. For sausages, burgers and other ground meat alternatives that’s not a problem, in fact it’s a benefit. But for nuggets or fillet strips that are supposed to be like chicken, a light color is naturally preferable,” said Bark. “We can adjust for this very well through combination with other protein concentrates. In our Plant Based Competence Center we have already been getting very good results in a range of application tests.”

The foundation for the collaboration by AOT and Hydrosol was laid last year. At the IFFA trade fair in Frankfurt, Hydrosol presented burger patties based on a sunflower texturate from AOT for the first time. It is the exclusive sales partner for this burger patty in the retail food convenience products category as well as the foodservice and catering segment.

With the future blending of the knowledge of both companies, Hydrosol will go a step further and work closely with AOT right from the development of texturates.

“This way we can create exactly the texturates that our industrial customers need for their final products. This exclusivity is of immense benefit to all concerned,” said Bark.

Moser added, “At a time when meatless products are steadily gaining importance, we want to use German and European raw materials to bring to market sustainable products that are free of soy and wheat. The collaboration with a company like AOT, with its extensive expertise in the sustainable manufacture of plant-based proteins, is thus a logical step for our future portfolio growth.”