Ex­tract­ing the eco-pre­mium

Con­sumer choice is chang­ing and New Zealand is well placed to meet fu­ture de­mand for new plant-based foods.

The Orchardist - - News - By Glenys Chris­tian

Pro­duc­ing plant-based foods in bulk is not where New Zealand should go ac­cord­ing to Dr Jo­ce­lyn Ea­son, Plant & Food’s gen­eral man­ager sci­ence – food in­no­va­tion.

In­stead the food in­dus­try should cre­ate new hero plant-based foods for ex­port cus­tomers.

“It’s all about choice with healthy, nu­tri­tious meals made from plants,” she told the ProteinTech Con­fer­ence in Auck­land re­cently.

In her pre­sen­ta­tion, What does the fu­ture hold? she said cus­tomers were chang­ing and wanted to choose plant­based pro­teins. There was also a drive for per­son­alised food that would fit nu­tri­tional and health driv­ers, which brought with it new ways to ex­pand mar­kets.She urged the au­di­ence to look to a more nu­anced view of the fu­ture rather than just fo­cus­ing on re­cent veg­e­te­rian in­no­va­tion such as the Im­pos­si­ble Burger and Sun­fed Chicken.

“What if the west was to move east?” she asked.

In China there was a strong cul­ture of both meat and plants mak­ing up part of all meals and it was rare to find veg­e­te­ri­ans or ve­g­ans. Around 60 per­cent of protein came from plant sources while in Western di­ets it ac­counted for about 40 per­cent.

“And we need to recog­nise the hu­man el­e­ment,” she said.

“Peo­ple eat food, not protein.”

This meant that not only taste but also touch, sight, sound and smell were im­por­tant. Ea­son quoted Plant and Food’s sci­ence group leader con­sumer and prod­uct in­sights, Dr Roger Harker, who said ear­lier this year it was in­evitable that con­sumers would eat more plant protein in the fu­ture, but he be­lieved they would adopt plant protein in an au­then­tic way that al­lowed it to be recog­nised as plant protein rather than mock meat.

“There’s an op­por­tu­nity for food sci­ence to cre­ate and mod­ify plant protein to de­liver greater di­ver­sity of tex­ture, taste and flavour,” he said.

Nu­tu­ri­tional sci­ence could also cre­ate and mod­ify plant protein-based foods in a way that pro­vided bet­ter over­all nutri­tion.

“There will be a large group of con­sumers who will re­spond very pos­i­tively to the plant protein-based foods that de­liver sen­sory and nu­tri­tional value,” he said.

“There has been lit­tle if any re­search to iden­tify what the spe­cific needs of th­ese con­sumers will be.”

An on­line sur­vey of 2000 peo­ple car­ried out across tier one and two ci­ties in China a year ago showed fish and seafood were con­sid­ered healthy meat pro­teins while dairy prod­ucts con­trib­uted cal­cium and im­mu­nity-boost­ing prop­er­ties. Pork was the most com­monly con­sumed meat but con­sump­tion was de­clin­ing due to its per­ceived high calo­ries, sat­u­rated fat and choles­terol. Beef was the meat of choice when din­ing out as it was con­sid­ered to be of pre­mium qual­ity.

Many re­spon­dents said they in­tended to eat more fruit and veg­eta­bles as they pro­vided the great­est source of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als but lit­tle protein so needed to be eaten with protein-rich ac­com­pa­ni­ments. Bean curd and legumes were seen as hav­ing pos­i­tive health cre­den­tials but fewer peo­ple in­tended to eat more of them as they didn’t feel they had a pos­i­tive sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence or the link with im­mu­nity that an­i­mal-based pro­teins did.

Ea­son then looked at what NZ needed to do to be suc­cess­ful.

“The op­por­tu­nity is in man­u­fac­tur­ing more di­verse protein foods, in­clud­ing high value plant protein foods, and sourc­ing

in­gre­di­ent streams from sus­tain­able and di­ver­si­fied pri­mary pro­duc­tion sys­tems,” she said.

NZ needed to be mind­ful of ev­ery part of the value chain, with cus­tomer in­sights and mar­ket pull im­por­tant at ev­ery stage.

“Con­sumers re­ally care whether their food is pro­cessed or ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied and how it tastes,” she said.

Plant va­ri­ety rights of­fered an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights op­por­tu­nity for NZ as ge­net­ics could be op­ti­mised in the ar­eas of nu­tri­ent qual­ity cov­er­ing protein, starch, fi­bre, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als and phy­to­chem­i­cals. Plants could be im­proved through har­vest in­dex, pro­duc­tion sys­tem and 100 per­cent util­i­sa­tion. And cli­matic suit­abil­ity would see plants matched to tem­per­a­ture, light, wind, wa­ter, nu­tri­ents and pests and dis­ease they could face.

Tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions with new pro­duc­tion meth­ods to farm within the im­pacts of cli­mate change would en­sure NZ’s fu­ture pri­mary pro­duc­tion was en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able. An eco-pre­mium could be cap­tured as cre­den­tials and as­sur­ances that sig­nalled au­then­tic­ity and food safety were strong pur­chase mo­ti­va­tors. Ev­i­dence-based pro­duc­tion was needed to cap­ture this eco-pre­mium so lower pro­duc­tion foot­prints for plant pro­teins could be ver­i­fied and com­plex trade-offs ad­dressed and this farm­ing also needed to be car­ried out within the im­pacts of cli­mate change.

Pro­duc­ing more di­verse protein foods would re­quire work­ing to­gether in the ar­eas of food com­po­si­tion, sci­ence and engi­neer­ing. Novel protein chem­istry would be needed to de­liver food protein struc­tures, along with sen­sory sci­ence, pro­cesses and tech­nolo­gies and man­u­fac­tur­ing in­fra­struc­ture. Pi­lot scale in­fra­struc­ture and tech­ni­cal skills would be re­quired for scal­ing up of plant protein ex­trac­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cess­ing needed to be avail­able across the coun­try.

“We have the abil­ity to do it,” she said.

“We have the kit but some­times we can’t ac­cess it or it’s in the wrong place.”

Key pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies, in­fra­struc­ture and physic­o­chem­i­cal knowl­edge would be widely ap­pli­ca­ble to a num­ber of plants to achieve whole of plant util­i­sa­tion.

Ea­son said iso­la­tion of pro­teins from plant sources was most eco­nom­i­cal when the whole plant was used. For ex­am­ple ex­tract­ing protein from gar­den peas might re­sult in gluten­free, food grade starch and in­sol­u­ble fi­bre be­ing able to be used as a pre­bi­otic food in­gre­di­ent or bio­ma­te­rial for re­in­forc­ing bio­plas­tics.

Plant-based protein foods could de­liver more vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and phy­to­chem­i­cals but there were chal­lenges as a com­plete es­sen­tial amino acids (EAA) of­fer­ing was re­quired for sell­ing out­side of NZ which could limit the fi­nan­cial re­turns of plant protein in­gre­di­ent streams.

“NZ in­gre­di­ent streams should be fo­cused on man­u­fac­tur­ing pre­mium NZ foods,” she said.

There could also be is­sues with anti-nu­tri­tional fac­tors, al­ler­gens and taste con­sid­er­a­tions such as flavour and tex­ture.

As a fi­nal step com­pa­nies and re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions could of­fer ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise to de­velop pre­mium of­fer­ings which would see ex­ist­ing chan­nels built on or new ones es­tab­lished to take prod­ucts to mar­ket. The prod­ucts needed to be sen­sory, nu­tri­tional, au­then­tic, healthy and safe and taken to mar­ket as branded con­sumer goods through ver­ti­cally in­te­grated co­op­er­a­tive or col­lab­o­ra­tive mod­els.

Ea­son listed five hur­dles to be over­come say­ing that achiev­ing a di­ver­si­fied high protein food sec­tor would re­quire biore­source ex­panded to de­velop suit­able plants and pro­duc­tion which was cli­mate proof, waste neu­tral and sus­tain­able. In­vest­ment would be re­quired to iso­late the new plant-based pro­teins as well as for new pro­cess­ing in­fra­struc­ture, for vi­a­bil­ity a to­tal util­i­sa­tion mind­set was needed as part of the es­tab­lish­ment of a so­phis­ti­cated co­op­er­a­tive agri­food in­dus­try.

“NZ has an in­no­va­tive ex­port­ing econ­omy,” she said.

“We’re good at branded con­sumer goods.”

And while there were chal­lenges such as many farms be­ing quite small and run­ning animals as well as grow­ing crops, she said both end prod­ucts could be used as in­gre­di­ents in new foods which might be de­vel­oped.

Bill Mur­phy, the founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of En­ter­prise An­gels, which has over 200 in­vestor mem­bers in the up­per North Is­land, said in his clos­ing re­marks that NZ “just needed to get on with it”.

“There are few other coun­tries af­fected so much so it’s very im­por­tant to un­der­stand where the trends are go­ing,” he said.

In­vestors had a huge role to play as there was grow­ing in­vestor dis­cre­tion with half of to­tal funds in­vested in NZ and Aus­tralia sub­ject to a re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ment strat­egy.

“Con­sumers re­ally care whether their food is pro­cessed or ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied and how it tastes.”

Jo­ce­lyn Ea­son – peo­pleeat food, not protein.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.