Taking on off-flavor issues in plant proteins

by Jeff Gelski
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Hampton Creek products
Hampton Creek seeks to extract protein from peas in a form that is functional without the protein having any undesirable organoleptic properties.

KANSAS CITY — The surge continues for new products containing plant proteins, especially pulses like peas. Whether the products succeed most certainly will depend on taste. Technology, growing techniques and company partnerships all are tools that may be used to avoid any of the plant proteins’ off-flavors.

The number of new product launches with “plant-based” claims in the United States reached 320 in 2016, up from 94 in 2012, according to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands. Mintel in its “Food and drink trends 2017” report said the food and beverage industry this year will welcome more products that emphasize plants as ingredients, which will serve as a way to align with consumers’ health and wellness concerns. The products may interest vegans, vegetarians and “flexitarians,” or people who take a more flexible, personalized approach to healthy eating.

“Technology will also play a part, both to ensure there is ample supply of plants and to create plant-enhanced foods that deliver on taste, which is especially important for the flexitarian audience,” the Mintel report said.

Pre-milling thermal treatments may reduce off-flavors in pulses, including yellow peas, navy beans and faba beans, processed as ingredients for commercial food products, according to the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), Winnipeg, Man. A one-year project found infra-red heating, or “micronization,” and roasting improved the flavor of pulses used as ingredients in baked foods, said Peter Frohlich, project manager, pulses and special crops.

Navy beans, fava beans, yellow peas
Pre-milling thermal treatments may reduce off-flavors in pulses, including yellow peas, navy beans and faba beans.

“I think thermal processes will be used in (the) future as a way to treat pulses before they become ingredients,” he said. “Food companies generally seek out ingredients with less flavor to increase nutrition. So it’s important we have been doing the research to determine how thermally treated pulse ingredients affect the quality of baked food products.”

Hampton Creek, Inc., San Francisco, experienced no off-taste flavors when working with pea protein in its Just Mayo product, but legumes, which include pulses like yellow peas, may bring off-flavors like bitterness and grassy notes, said Lee Chae, Ph.D., vice-president of research and development.

“We remove the off-notes if we can,” Dr. Chae said. “If we can’t, then we move on to another protein.”

Hampton Creek seeks to extract protein from peas in a form that is functional, such as acting as an emulsifier, without the protein having any undesirable organoleptic properties. Small molecules within plants are responsible for flavors, Dr. Chae said. Some plants may be naturally more neutral in flavors. Other plants might have small molecules that produce desirable flavors, such as in the case of vanilla beans. Other plants have small molecules that bring flavors that are not desirable.

Just Mayo, Hampton Creek
Hampton Creek promotes the sustainability benefits of yellow peas as an emulsifier in Just Mayo.

The company promotes the sustainability benefits of yellow peas as an emulsifier in Just Mayo. The yellow pea protein in Just Mayo has similar emulsifying properties to egg yolk in mayonnaise, he said.

Cargill, Minneapolis, and Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., both have partnered with other companies in supplying plant-based protein ingredients.

Cargill offers its pea protein ingredients in partnership with World Food Processing, a family-owned business based in Oskaloosa, Iowa. World Food Processing has developed non-G.M.O. pea seed varieties to minimize off-flavors, said Amanda Donohue-Hansen, business development manager for Cargill.

Ingredion offers pulse-based ingredients through a partnership with AGT Food and Ingredients, Regina, Sask. The Vitessence line of protein concentrates derived from pea, lentil and faba bean range in protein content from 55% to 60%, said Pat O’Brien, manager, strategic business development for Ingredion and based in Bridgewater, N.J. Ingredion’s Homecraft flours include a range of pulse-based flours derived from pea, faba bean, chickpea and lentil. The protein content of the flours ranges between 12% and 30%, Mr. O’Brien said.

Ingredion Vitessence
Ingredion's Vitessence line of protein concentrates is derived from pea, lentil and faba beans.

“One of the challenges that product developers face when working with plant-based ingredients such as pulses is the natural, beany flavor profile,” he said. “In certain applications the flavor profile may be desired while in other applications product developers may prefer a bland flavor profile. Ingredion has the technical and applications support to help customers achieve the flavor profile they desire when working with pulse ingredients.”

He added Ingredion and AGT Food and Ingredients launched a series of Clean Taste pulse ingredients at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting in Chicago last July.

“The Clean Taste pulse ingredients allow product developers a bland flavor profile for easier incorporation into applications in which flavor has been an issue when trying to formulate with pulse ingredients,” Mr. O’Brien said. “The Clean Taste pulse ingredients are developed using a proprietary technology, which will improve the flavor profile of pulse ingredients while maintaining the clean label positioning of the pulse ingredients.”

Peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils may be milled into whole, split or decorticated flours, according to Best Cooking Pulses, Portage la Prairie, Man. Whole flours include the seed coat or hull, which provides increased water-holding and oil-binding capabilities as well as higher levels of fiber, iron, calcium and other micronutrients.

Best Cooking Pulses pea fiber
Best Cooking Pulses offers a pea fiber powder.

Split pulses are made from seeds. The seed coat or hull is removed, and the cotyledon has been divided into two halves. Decorticated pulse flours also have the seed coat or hull removed, but the cotyledon remains in one piece.

Sustainability issues are a positive for pulses. They require a small amount of fertilizer to grow because they have a relationship with soil bacteria that converts the nitrogen in the air into a fertilizer that crops may use, according to Pulse Canada, Winnipeg.

Several ingredient suppliers have focused on pea protein this year.

PGP International, a division of ABF Ingredients, launched a 60% pea protein crisp that may be used in cereal, snack bars, energy foods and confectionery items. Extrusion technology ensures the crisps remain free from hexane, according to PGP International.

PGP international pea crisp
PGP International launched a 60% pea protein crisp that may be used in snack bars.

Roquette, La Madeleine, France, plans to invest more than C$400 million ($303 million) to build a pea protein manufacturing site in Portage la Prairie. The facility will have a processing capacity of more than 120,000 tonnes per year, said Pascal Leroy, vice-president and head of the pea protein business for Roquette.

Roquette expects construction to start in the second half of 2017 and production to begin in 2019. Roquette, which offers Nutralys brand pea protein ingredients, already operates a pea protein manufacturing site in France that has a processing capacity of nearly 100,000 tonnes per year, Mr. Leroy said.

Canada accounts for about 30% of the total global production of peas, according to Roquette. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in its outlook for the 2016-17 crop year (Aug. 1, 2016, to July 31, 2017), said production of dry peas should increase by 51% to a record 4.8 million tonnes, with yellow pea types accounting for 4.2 million tonnes.

U.S. dry edible bean production reached 27,737,000 cwts in 2016, up from 18,283,000 cwts in 2015 and more than double the 13,203,000 cwts in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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READER COMMENTS (4)

By ishibashi 10/23/2017 12:24:35 PM

By yasuji ishibashi 10/20/2017 1:02:54 PM

By yasuji ishibashi 10/20/2017 12:26:22 PM

By Stuart 3/27/2017 1:30:36 PM
Would be nice to develop a pea protein or way of processing to make pea protein that would get rid of these off-flavor tastes. That would be a winner. Roquette says this will happen in five years but maybe what's needed is a crash Manhattan project-type program to develop this no off-taste pea protein. Pea is an excellent source of plant protein that doesn't need nitrogen fertilizer. Great for dealing with climate change and that's a key selling feature for consumers.