Consumers continue to expect food and beverage products to taste good and to fit with their on-the-go lifestyles. Nonetheless, they are also increasingly looking for ingredients that are sustainably sourced. They are more aware than ever of the environmental impact of the food industry, and are demanding a response from food producers. A European Commission survey found that 74% of consumers would choose brands according to their social and environmental impact.
“Consumers are acutely aware of the impact of food production on our environment,” says Michiel Pronk, sales manager at Cosun Protein. “As a result, demand for functional plant-based proteins is growing rapidly.”
Meeting this demand however can present a challenge for formulators. “This is especially true for certain indulgence products, such as ice cream,” says Pronk. “Consumers continue to have high expectations when it comes to taste and texture.” Overcoming consumer scepticism that plant-based alternatives in the dairy sector can deliver on these critical factors is essential if brands are to capitalise on the untapped potential of this market.
Sustainable plant-based protein solution
To address this need, Cosun Protein has developed a unique fava bean isolate called Tendra. The fava used is cultivated in Europe, is GMO-free, and produced using limited water use and with efficient nitrogen fixation.
“Fava has a very low CO2-footprint,” says Pronk. “All these factors are in line with our environmental strategy, and related sustainability goals to produce locally in a climate-friendly manner.”
The company also employs proprietary extraction technology and a unique purification process. The end result, says Pronk, is a flavour and aroma-neutral plant protein that exceeds industry standards for taste, purity and solubility. Introduced onto the market in 2022, the ingredient is already helping brands to change consumer perceptions about plant-based proteins in certain niche market segments.
Viable alternative to milk protein
A good example is how Tendra has been successfully used as a replacer of milk protein in ice cream and yoghurt. One important element is that Tendra can replace the functionalities of milk protein without the need for additional gums and stabilisers. It delivers a smooth and creamy texture, with a neutral taste.
“Since Tendra is neural in taste - but at the same able to provide a pleasant texture - formulators have found that they can develop a plant-based yoghurt or ice cream that is similar or even better to the animal protein-based benchmark,” says Pronk. “Furthermore, with Tendra we managed to formulate a plant-based yoghurt with the textural properties of milk-based yoghurt. This has not really been achieved before.”
Tendra brings several other benefits that appeal to modern consumers. Protein is locally produced, and has a very good sustainability score. Consumers can enjoy the sensory and nutritional benefits of yoghurt and ice cream, dairy-free.
Collaboration from formulation to marketing
The Cosun Protein team operates from the state-of-the-art Cosun innovation centre, based in the Netherlands. “From here, we are able to support our customers at every step of developing new formulations,” says Pronk. “We can help with application support, and at the same time provide assistance in topics such as analysis, sensorics and texture measurements. We think of our innovation centre as an open community, where our partners and customers can learn and develop together.”
“Moving forward, Cosun Protein is actively working on a gelatine plant-based protein, to complement Tendra,” says Marcel van der Vaart, business development manager at Cosun Protein. Van der Vaart points out that Tendra is an emulsifying protein that can replace milk protein and egg yolk - as a result, it is primarily applied as a dairy alternative and dressing application.
“We want to introduce a protein that can replace egg white, and which has gelation properties as the main functionality,” he explains. “This ingredient will provide formulators with new opportunities, for example, in the meat alternative and bakery segments.”
Food producers across a range of sectors are looking for high quality functional proteins to boost product development. Through enabling the formulation of plant-based products with attractive taste and texture, van der Vaart believes that Cosun is setting new standards for functional proteins, and helping customers achieve their goals.
“In general, we see that, across all segments, there is huge potential for alternative proteins like Tendra,” he says. “This is especially true where functionality is key, in addition to nutritional value and environmental impact.”