The replacement of animal derived proteins with plant proteins is considered an essential step to ensure a globally sustainable and healthy food supply (IPCC report). This so-called protein transition has been gaining momentum over the last few years with an increasing consumer demand for vegetarian and vegan products, which is met by regular new product launches. The majority of such products aim to replace either dairy or meat, but there are still numerous technological challenges to achieve similar product properties.
One of the challenges when replacing animal proteins with plant proteins is the fact that plant protein concentrates/isolates/powders can contain undesired compounds that might i) either be perceived as an off-flavor or off-taste, ii) have antinutritional effects or iii) interfere with the human endocrine system. Within this project we will develop processes that allow purification of plant proteins by incubation with microbes that degrade these undesired compounds. The processes will be designed in a way that the metabolic activity of the microbe targets the degradation of specific molecules with very limited to no side activities, such as product acidification. Eventually the microorganism will be heat inactivated, leaving the purified product/protein ingredient for further applications.
The project is aimed at identifying generic bio-purification strategies and it will explore the possibilities and limitations of such bio-purification processes. The obtained knowledge will be applicable for food producers and ingredient suppliers that are working on the protein transition.