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22nd September 2022  Content supplied by: Merit Functional Foods

Delivering an Authentic Meat Like Texture and Flavour in Alt Meat Products

Here we discuss with Lisa Casper, Technical Applications Manager, Merit Functional Foods, how their solutions can potentially help new product development teams to meet the target of clean label whilst delivering the ultimate in taste, texture, and appearance, moving closer to a real meat experience.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge at the moment for NPD teams in the alt protein space?

Lisa: As more and more consumers try plant-based meat alternatives, they are seeking the springy, meat-like texture that’s long been associated with animal-based meats. Methylcellulose has traditionally been the saviour in helping formulators mimic these textures, but as consumers become more discerning about the ingredients they consume, they’re pushing for brands to remove unfamiliar ingredients from their formulations.

It's created a bit of a catch-22 for formulators: consumers want plant-based meat alternatives that look and taste like traditional meats, but they are reaching for cleaner ingredient labels. That’s why innovations like Merit’s new protein-based solution leveraging Peazazz® pea protein are exciting for formulators, as they help bridge that gap.

Q: Where do you see most growth coming from?

Lisa: Consumers are increasingly following “flexitarian” lifestyles – where they might not be strictly vegan but are also proactively trying to limit their meat consumption. That’s driving growth within the plant-based categories, as is the overall demand for healthier, more environmentally friendly food choices. In fact SPINS data shows that there’s been a 45% one-year dollar growth and 18% household penetration within the plant-based meat category.

Q: Methylcellulose is not a store cupboard ingredient, but it is often added to plant-based meats – why is it used, and what is the clean-label alternative?
Methylcellulose is a modified cellulose that provides two key functions. The first function is as a binder – a “glue” – for adhering particles prior to cooking patties, meatballs, links, and other meat formats. The second is that methylcellulose gels at hot temperatures and provides hot structure, a meat-like bite, and durability and stability when cooking and eating. When methylcellulose gels, it also expresses some moisture, giving a meat alternative a more realistic mouthfeel. Finally, replacing methylcellulose is difficult because it is easy to color and is completely neutral in flavor.

Methylcellulose certainly has many attractive attributes for meat alternative formulators, but for the consumer that wants to recognize the ingredients that they consume, it misses the mark. Merit’s protein-based approach featuring Peazazz® pea protein is a clean label replacement that delivers qualities that formulators have traditionally relied on methylcellulose to provide.

Q: How difficult is it to reformulate a meat alt product using Peazazz?
There are specific considerations required before implementing Merit’s protein-based methylcellulose alternative. Formulation, process conditions, and time will potentially need to be adjusted. Because you are creating a protein gel, formulators using our ingredients get the dual benefit of the structuring agent being your protein source, much like in traditional meats.

We also offer support to new product development teams looking for formulation assistance when using our protein-based approach for meat alternatives – it’s one of the values that we bring to every customer relationship.

Q: What makes the Peazazz range better than other options on the market?
Peazazz® pea protein undergoes a patented membrane filtration technology during production that results in functionality and taste unlike anything in the market, with a leading nutritional and purity profile at 90% protein.

For meat alternatives, when Peazazz® pea protein is used as part of our new protein-based approach, we have found that it offers unique water binding, high solubility, and strong gelling properties that allow formulators to form meat alternatives and maintain springy, meat-like textures in plant-based sausages, hot dogs, burgers, and more – with far better results than other pea proteins.

Q: Merit are pea protein producers, so what experience do you have in helping NPD?

Lisa: While we are producers of highly functional pea and canola protein ingredients, we also have a world-class research and applications team that works every day to solve product development challenges for our customers, whether it’s for a meat alternative, a smooth, grit-free ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage, or other applications. We love working collaboratively with our customers to find a plant protein solution that helps overcome whatever formulation challenges they’re facing.

We work with brands to help them reach product nutritional goals, replacing other sources of protein with Merit’s and enhancing or modifying functionality for better processing and improved sensory characteristics. Our team also advises on co-development projects and joins in on bench work to discover how best to utilize our proteins in customer-specific formulations or processes.

In a nutshell, our R&D team helps accelerate the development of finished formulas that work well in process and deliver the attributes consumers want in the final product!

Q: Can you give me an example whereby you solved issues for an NPD team?

Lisa: Absolutely, yes, one of the common criticisms of plant-based foods is that synthetic non-protein ingredients are replacing the functionality of animal proteins, and this leads to long and complex ingredient declarations. Our new protein-based approach featuring Peazazz® solves this common challenge, allowing formulators to replace methylcellulose in meat alternatives and deliver a cleaner label – while providing a positive sensory experience for consumers. We are sampling these concepts to customers and getting feedback remarking on how firm and springy the products are.

Another application we have received positive feedback from our customers on is ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, where our Peazazz C™ pea protein provides a smooth, grit-free texture, even at double-digit protein levels! Formulators have long struggled with sedimentation in RTD beverages, and Merit has the solution to overcome that challenge. This innovative pea protein ingredient offers high solubility, low viscosity, and the lowest sodium on the market – 8x less than standard pea protein – providing a healthier option for formulators.

Discover how Merit Functional Foods can help fast-track your Alt Protein product formulations today or contact the supplier for more details using the green "Request Information" button below.



Date Published: 22nd September 2022

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