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17th May 2022  Editorial by: Newprotein Staff Writer

Sunflower Protein: Exploring Its Potential for Mainstream Food Ingredient Applications

As the alternative plant-based protein market increases, sunflower protein is emerging as a potential key ingredient in this space. Here, Martin Schweizer, PhD, VP of Technical Development at Burcon NutraScience, talks to about how proteins from sunflower seeds might be the solution for alt protein product formulations. We discover the many advantages extracts from this widely grown crop can offer to innovative new product development teams.

Q: How Much Protein Do Sunflower Seeds Contain?
Essentially, the protein percentage in whole sunflower seeds varies depending on the type of seed. However, the typical protein content ranges from 14% to 18%. Once the oil is extracted, the protein content of the sunflower meal is determined by seed variety and the amount of oil and fiber present in that seed. The Burcon NutraScience has recently partnered with Proteins Industries, Canada to produce high-quality protein ingredients from sunflower seeds using the best possible extraction methods. The global technology leader in the plant-based protein development industry aims to evaluate various parameters involved in the upfront processes that can affect the raw material production for sunflower protein extraction.

Q: Why Has Sunflower Never Previously Been Used as a Protein Crop?
Sunflowers are a crop that has been around for centuries, but it has not typically been used as a source of protein. There are several reasons for this. First, the oil content of traditional sunflower seeds is high (50% to 60%), and they have therefore been used more for their oil than for their protein. Second, extracting protein from sunflower meals can be difficult without denaturing the protein. Moreover, these seeds have a darker color and an unpleasant flavor, so it has always been challenging to use them in food ingredient applications.

However, recent advances in technology have made it easier to extract protein from sunflower meals without damaging the proteins. Burcon has developed a patented technology that promises to produce sunflower proteins with more than 90% purity. These proteins will have a neutral color and exceptionally bland flavor. This revolutionary technology sets a new benchmark for sunflower protein for mainstream food ingredient applications, indicating that sunflower may become a more common source of protein in the future!

Q: What Makes Sunflower Protein Unique?
High-purity sunflower protein possesses a neutral flavor and unique properties that make it an ideal ingredient in various food applications. This amazing plant-based protein offers many benefits for those looking for an alternative to animal-based proteins. It is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids needed for human health. Sunflower protein is also high in fiber and contains important antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Additionally, its mild flavor and texture make it an excellent choice for those who don't enjoy the taste of other plant-based proteins like soy or hemp.

Lastly, sunflower is not linked to any major food allergens, unlike some other plant protein sources. This makes it a label-friendly protein ingredient actively sought by food formulators.

Q: What Are Some Examples of Sunflower Protein Food Applications?
One of its most promising applications is in meat replacements, where it is ideal because it has a similar texture and flavor to ground beef and is a good source of iron, an essential nutrient for people trying to reduce their meat intake.

Sunflower protein can be used to replace some of the flour in a baking recipe, which makes the final product more nutritious. Additionally, sunflower protein can help improve the texture of baked goods.
Apart from this, the mild flavor and texture make sunflower protein a good choice for smoothies and other beverages. While the food application screening is still in progress, sunflower protein’s unique functional and organoleptic properties make it ideal for various formulations requiring delicate flavors.   

Burcon is excited to commercialize the use of sunflower protein as a food ingredient. The regulatory path for this ground-breaking innovation is expected to be a reasonably straightforward process.

Visit for more details or use the request information button below to connect directly.

Martin Schweizer, PhD, Vice-President, Technical Development

Dr. Schweizer joined Burcon in May 2002 as a process-engineering specialist. He relocated from Nancy, France, where he earned his doctorate at the Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine, with an emphasis on the enzymatic hydrolysis of rapeseed proteins. Prior to his Ph.D. work, Dr. Schweizer completed a chemical engineering degree (Dipl.-Ing) at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, where he specialized in food process engineering and water technology. He has over 20 years of experience in research and development and his main expertise lies in the fractionation and purification of biochemical compounds using current state of the art technology such as membrane filtration, liquid chromatography and various extraction technologies, both aqueous and solvent based. Since January 2003, Dr. Schweizer has overseen Burcon’s research and development efforts at its Winnipeg Technical Centre.



Date Published: 17th May 2022

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