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Pea protein delivers nutritional benefits while reducing ecological footprint

Source:FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal     Date:2022-01-12
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ROQUETTE, a global leader in plant-based ingredients and plant proteins, matches increasing demand for plant-based alternatives with its NUTRALYS® family of plant protein designed to deliver nutritious, easy-to-use and sustainable ingredients. The France-based company, which has more than 40 years of research and production in plant proteins, seeks to bolster its presence in the thriving pea protein sector even as it works to ensure a secure, safe and eco-friendly supply of plant protein for the global market.


Roquette's NUTRALYS® pea protein ingredients range, the widest in the market today, comprises products whose protein, fibre and starch are extracted from the yellow pea using a clean, water-based process. Besides providing health and nutritional benefits, NUTRALYS® pea protein can be used for a growing variety of applications and provide an affordable and sustainable source of protein.  


Increasing demand for nutritious and natural foods, including sports nutrition and nutraceuticals, and more recent concerns about health and wellness amidst the pandemic, has boosted the popularity of pea protein the world over.  The global market experienced a 11.4 percent CAGR between 2016 and 2020, according to Future Market Insights, and with outlook still positive, it is projected to grow at 14.2 percent CAGR from 2021 to 2031.  


Roquette is uniquely positioned to respond to the growing demand for plant-based food, in particular pea protein, not just based on its history of protein production and commodities such as wheat gluten, maize gluten and potato protein, said Eliza Tsun, sales manager at Roquette for Greater Asia, Pea and New Proteins. Roquette produces more than 600,000 metric tons of protein per year across 20 production units. In the area of pea protein, the company has 15 years of expertise in pea processing and 90 patents on pea-based products and applications - the largest patent portfolio in the sector.

“We've always been a pioneer in plant-based specialty protein for the food, nutrition and health markets,” added Tsun. “And we will continue to be a major player in the current global food revolution, working with manufacturers toward a plant-forward future,” she said.


Health awareness spurs plant-based protein market

Sustainability and health and wellness trends combined have been feeding the shift to plant-based alternatives around the world in recent years. The greater emphasis in recent months on better nutrition to boost immunity further accelerated this shift.


More food manufacturers are looking to offer a more diverse and nutritious product portfolio to address growing consumer demand for healthier options. But these companies also want to reduce their carbon footprint and boost sustainability levels across the value chain. Such efforts have given rise to more plant-based alternatives other than soya, which for many years has been one of the most-common and sought-after sources.


“Health benefits top reasons why more consumers are turning to plant-based alternatives,” said Tsun. “Of the subset data of the Innova study comprising India, China and Indonesia, 69 percent of respondents point to plant-based alternatives being healthier,” Tsun added. 


Compared with their animal counterparts, vegetable proteins are low in calorie, saturated fat and cholesterol. They have a complete essential amino acid profile, and in cases where some vegetable proteins lack some amino acids, blending with other proteins makes up for the deficiency.  Vegetable proteins are also a good source of fibre.


Plant-based alternatives offer increased variety to the diet. Sustainability and taste are the other factors why more people are turning to flexitarianism or simply reducing their meat intake.


Pea protein for diverse applications

Roquette hopes to match the steadily rising demand for plant-based alternatives with its growing range of NUTRALYS® offerings that can be used in place of meat and dairy.


The NUTRALYS® range of plant protein ingredients, derived from peas and more recently fava beans, offers clean-tasting, nutritious and high-quality protein. The 10 plant protein ingredients in the portfolio have been customized and adapted to different functional and nutritional requirements, making them suitable for dairy, plant-based meat, baking and snacks, and specialised nutrition applications.  


The NUTRALYS® pea protein range is ideal for RTD drinks, fermented milk, frozen dessert, non-dairy coffee creamer and analogue cheese for the dairy-free market. As a plant-based meat alternative, pea protein can used in meat balls, burger patties, nuggets, sausages, spread pates and dips.


In the baking and snacks segment, NUTRALYS® pea protein can be used in making breads, biscuits and crackers, cakes and pastries, cereals and extruded snacks, pasta and protein bars. For manufacturers producing specialised nutrition products, pea protein is ideal for powder drinks, RTD drinks, energy gels, protein bars, crisps and extruded snacks.


“We establish our leadership in the thriving pea protein market today with sustainable, nutritional and functional solutions that deliver high added value,” said Tsun.

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For plant-based meat alternatives, the NUTRALYS® pea protein range can be used in restructured, structured and emulsified formats.


For restructured –meat analogues – NUTRALYS® dry textured plant protein are used as the main structuring ingredient, which are combined with binders such as starch, insoluble fibre and/or hydrocolloids to achieve an optimal texture and a good nutritional profile. These products are ideal for use in burger patties, nuggets, sausages and meat balls.


The NUTRALYS® Texture Vegetable Protein or TVP range, which has a final water content of less than 10 percent, is available as granules, strips or chunks for the Asia-Pacific market, with each format featuring a specific texture, firmness, juiciness, fibrousness and flexibility to suit processing and application requirements. NUTRALYS® TP70G, for example, has a smaller particle size to deliver the soft texture needed for ground meat. Meanwhile, NUTRALYS® TP-C comes in larger chunks to achieve the fibrous texture needed to mimic long fish fibres and the tenderness required in crab cakes and other seafood alternatives.


Structured proteins are non-aggregated pieces such as fillets and pulled or shredded plant-based meat, usually produced with a high moisture extrusion (HME) process. These use protein isolates and pea fibres. NUTRALYS® pea protein isolates are suitable for use in structured meat alternatives for their abilities to be textured, to emulsify and to gelatinise, along with high protein content and good taste profile.


Emulsified variants are emulsions of vegetable fats with plant-based protein then stabilised with a binding system. NUTRALYS® F85 pea protein range has a high water- and fat-holding capacity and other technical functionalities to create a juicy bite for plant-based meat analogs. NUTRALYS® F85M will develop a strong, smooth and stable gel after thermal treatment, crucial when developing meat-like products. For outputs that need less sodium, NUTRALYS® L85M has half the sodium content of the standard (NUTRALYS® F85M).


For dairy applications, the NUTRALYS® range offers soluble pea protein isolates. NUTRALYS® S85 and S85+ are easy to disperse and feature good wettability, high solubility at neutral pH, and emulsification capacity and stability. They do not result in gelling/viscosity increase after heat treatment. NUTRALYS® S85 and S85+ have neutral taste and colour and show stable taste and texture throughout the product shelf life.


According to Tsun, a strict process control ensures good solubility and binding for pea protein. Adjusting the fineness of the powder impacts dispersibility, mouthfeel and taste.


“The proteins can also be textured to create a fibrous appearance that is close to the texture of meat, or they can be puffed to provide crispiness for applications such as snacks,” she added.


Pea protein, a nutritious and sustainable choice

Pea protein delivers health benefits comparable to other proteins, scoring high on the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid score to reflect high quality in terms of meeting the amino acid requirements of humans and digestibility.


The NUTRALYS® pea protein range has no major allergen declaration required, intolerance agents, contaminants and anti-nutritional factors. They are sourced from non-GMO crops and produced using a safe process, Tsun said.

According to Tsun, NUTRALYS® pea protein is the first pea protein supported by clinical trials to assess its performance in muscle mass development and satiety management. Results show that NUTRALYS® pea protein led to a significant increase in muscular mass compared with the placebo. In terms of satiety and caloric intake, the pea protein induced a significant decrease of caloric intake consumed during ad libitum (or on demand) meal. There are also studies around blood glucose management, shared Tsun.

“Amongst the plant proteins, pea appears to have the best profile. Pea protein has over 5 percent more branched-chained amino acid and 16 percent more arginine than soy protein, which is really important especially in applications such as sports nutrition. Unlike soy, the yellow pea protein has no major allergen, is derived from non-GMO crops and extracted in a safe process. Pea proteins also have low amounts of anti-nutritional factors, which are responsible for digestive discomfort,” Tsun added.

Plant proteins also ensure good digestibility. “Thanks to the patented water-based process that Roquette employs, most of the anti-nutritional factors originally present in pea are eliminated. What this means is all grains in NUTRALYS® pea proteins have a very high digestibility level exceeding 96 percent,” added Tsun.


Pea protein meets the sustainability requirement of its growing manufacturer and consumer demographic as well. Pea production needs significantly less water than bovine meat and soy production. The land used is much smaller compared to that required for bovine meat, sunflower and soy. The carbon dioxide emissions from pea crops is also low.


“Today, 80 percent of our French pea protocol volumes are certified as sustainable. Data from our France production, where our first pea protein plant is located and where we source our raw materials, prove this,” Tsun said.


Roquette is further bolstering its capability in pea protein product development and manufacture. It invested about half a billion euros in a new pea protein plant in Manitoba, Canada, where construction commenced in 2018. At 270,000 square metres, the facility will be the world's largest plant for pea proteins. It will have 18,000 square metres of total plant surface and will process 125,000 tons of yellow peas yearly.


“We expect to see commercial products from the plant later this year. This will be critical in serving the North American market and feeding demand for pea protein globally,” said Tsun.


With its global network of development and technical teams and the support of application development centres in different countries around the world, Roquette continues to innovate to create new products and solutions for the plant-based market. One challenge its team continues to work on, along with partner manufacturers, is in the area of taste.


“Taste is a challenge for pea protein everywhere. It's a top priority for all stakeholders to ensure the products taste good. We've been working hard at Roquette to develop a delicious culinary experience for our customers and their consumers to demonstrate that proteins are not only good food but also a source of enjoyment. We have to remember that plant protein cannot be compared with dairy-based protein in that it is hard to get the same vanilla profile that is in dairy milk. But through sustained process improvements, we continue to improve the taste profile of our pea protein, and we look forward to continue delivering only high-quality products,” Tsun said.


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