PARIS – Novel sources of plant protein, including mung bean and moringa, could affect the food and beverage industry in the coming years, but sourcing, distribution and functionality issues need to be solved.
In the case of moringa, a Dr. Seuss children’s story illustrates one problem. Does anybody like green eggs, with or without ham?
Produced in India and Africa, the moringa plant is a good source of protein, said Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business, in a plant protein panel discussion held at Food Ingredients Europe Dec. 3 in Paris.
Moringa, which is in the same family as beans, has leaves rich in protein, said Udi Lazimy, global sourcing and sustainability director for Just, a company that works with ingredients that replace eggs in applications. In tests with moringa, Just found it difficult to get rid of the green color.
“Nobody really wants to eat green eggs,” Mr. Lazimy said in the panel discussion.
Just has focused on mung bean protein recently. Company researchers needed four and a half years to discover the functionality of mung bean required in its Just Egg product, Mr. Lazimy said.
“It took the expertise of culinary wizards, food scientists and a huge R.&D. program,” he said.
The Just Egg product that contains mung bean is the company’s first product containing an ingredient that previously did not exist on the market, Mr. Lazimy said. The company uses pea protein and sorghum in its other products.
“So many people are focused on using pea protein and wheat protein because it is available,” Mr. Lazimy said.
When working with mung bean, issues arise in sourcing and functionality.
“We have to find new protein processors,” Mr. Lazimy said. “We have to find sources of mung bean, which is what I do every day across the globe.”
Working with mung bean is tedious because different mung bean varieties have different characteristics and growing conditions also affect the flavor of the mung bean protein.
“It’s tedious now because I think it’s the beginning,” Mr. Lazimy said.
Algae, another plant protein source, brings many challenges in texture and color, Mr. Mellentin said, but emerging new leaves show promise.
Potato protein shows promise because of its beneficial functionality, but it is limited in supply, said Tiia Mörsky, ingredients research team leader for Campden BRI, which works in the science and technology areas for the food and beverage industry. Food and beverage companies still have much to learn in working with pea protein and soy protein as well, she said in the panel discussion.
Peas are one of about 80 different pulse species, Ms. Mörsky said. Only three or five of the species are commercially available, though, she said.
“I think there will be significant growth in that area,” Ms. Mörsky said. “The key to me is processing technique.”.