New ingredient forms like protein concentrate could appear while quinoa supplies improve.

CHICAGO – The food industry has much to learn about quinoa. In the future crop yield could improve, processing techniques could preserve nutritional qualities in food products, and new ingredient forms like quinoa protein concentrate could enter the market, said Laurie Scanlin, Ph.D., in a July 12 presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago.

Dr. Scanlin has worked in product development for 20 years and currently partners with Andean Naturals, a U.S. importer of quinoa. A source of plant-based protein for thousands of years in Bolivia and Peru, quinoa recently has become popular in new product launches. Quinoa currently comes in such ingredient forms as seeds, flour and flakes, Dr. Scanlin said.

She now wants to make quinoa protein concentrate marketable. While quinoa may vary from 9% to 20% protein, quinoa protein concentrate could be 70% protein, she said. Quinoa protein concentrate potentially could add flavor and provide creamy texture. It could improve the shelf life in such items as nutrition bars. It could offer optimal solubility and a neutral pH, she added.

Laurie Scanlin, Ph.D.

“Going to pilot scale, though, is really challenging, I found,” she said. “I’ve made very good tasting, high functional protein. I’ve also had some very costly learning lessons.”

For quinoa protein concentrate to be marketable, industry will need to find other uses for the remaining parts of the quinoa, she said.

“You need to utilize all the components to make it sustainable,” she said.

She said processing also is important. For example, toasting quinoa destroys lysine, an amino acid. Future research could focus on the digestibility of quinoa, she added. Cooking quinoa in water might improve digestibility, but not when it’s cooked for a long period of time, such as for an hour.

“That could happen in a large scale production,” Dr. Scanlin said.

Farmers in the Andes Mountains in Bolivia and Peru have grown and consumed quinoa for about 5,000 years.

Crop yield remains low she said, as in Bolivia and Peru yield is about 1 tonne to 3 tonnes per hectare (about 2.5 acres), she said.

Twenty-five countries are performing test plots with quinoa, Dr. Scanlin said. Farmers in arid regions in Africa, India and Asia might grow the crop. Although quinoa is more resistant to drought than many other crops, irrigation has been shown to improve yield.