Food Additives from Lupins – Contributing to a Balanced Diet and Enhanced Protein Supply
Dr. rer. nat. Stephanie Mittermaier (Spokesperson)
Dr.-Ing. habil. Peter Eisner
Dipl.-Ing. agr. Katrin Petersen* Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, Freising
*Prolupin GmbH, Grimmen
Feeding the world's rapidly growing population is increasingly becoming a challenge. One solution is to replace animal-based foods with plant-based raw materials. But how can they be made palatable for meat and sausage lovers?
Dr. Stephanie Mittermaier, Dr.-Ing. Peter Eisner and Dipl.-Ing. Katrin Petersen focused their research on lupins. They developed a process to produce vegetarian and vegan foods using these domestically grown plants, which are hardly distinguishable from animal-based products in taste and mouthfeel. They are an ideal alternative to soybeans. Stephanie Mittermaier is head of the Functional Ingredients business unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising, Peter Eisner is head of the IVV department Process Development for Plant Raw Materials and Food Process Development, Karin Petersen is Managing Director of Prolupin GmbH in Grimmen.
Consumption of plant-based products has the advantage that much less agricultural acreage is needed for their cultivation. Every kilogram of animal-based protein produced uses approximately five times the amount of land required to produce one kilogram of plant-based proteins.
Soy has long been the dominant meat substitute. Yet soy beans are accepted reluctantly by some consumers because vast tracts of land are cleared for their cultivation in the tropical rainforests. Many products also contain genetically modified soy. Moreover, the flavor quality of soy-based functional ingredients is not very appealing to lovers of meat, cheese and eggs. The proteins derived from these legumes sometimes smell and taste intensely bitter, beany or grassy. Consequently, in the past, they have almost solely been used in strongly seasoned foods such as sausages and whole-grain bread.
Lupins, in contrast, can be used as functional ingredients without any of these disadvantages. The plants which are grown in Central Europe as preceding or catch crops are guaranteed to be not genetically modified. They also do not compete with other crops such as wheat, corn or rapeseed. That they are also virtually neutral in smell and taste and can thus be used as an alternative to animal-based raw materials can be credited to the three nominated research scientists. They invented a process capable of completely separating the components of lupin seeds. They were thus able to break down and identify unpleasant odorous and flavoring substances. The contraries can then be removed in several steps. Environmentally friendly and food-safe solvents are used such as water and supercritical carbon dioxide.
What is left are proteins from lupin plant that are neutral in flavor and can serve as functional ingredients for various foods, such as stabilizers in beverages and spreads, structure forming agents in sausage products and pasta, or mousses used in the production of baked goods and sweets. One of the challenges of using vegetable proteins is their use in milk replacement products such as yoghurt or cheese. The nominees impressively demonstrated that this can be done very successfully using lupins by formulating a recipe for lupin ice cream. This vegan ice cream has been on the market since 2011 and is very popular.
The company Prolupin GmbH was established as a spin-off in Grimmen (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) in 2010 for the further development and marketing of food ingredients based on lupin seed. A processing plant for lupin on an industrial scale started operation there in the summer of 2013. The commercial prospects are excellent: the global market for isolates made of soy beans is currently approximately half a billion Euros per year. Lupin products could largely replace soy due to their better quality. Enough cultivable acreage is already available. And since Prolupin holds the key patents, there is virtually no competition.