Plant-based solutions provide useful alternatives to bakery products seeking to answer consumers’ health and dietary requirements. Research in antimicrobial phytochemicals, proteins and peptides found in legumes could lead to similar results as chemical preservatives while egg replacement strategies are also being looked at. Tiia Morsky, Ingredients Research Team Leader at Campden BRI, discusses current research to adapt bakery products to new demands.
What projects are you mainly involved in at Campden BRI?
“My main responsibilities include managing and proposing research for our clients. I am responsible for a variety of projects encompassing ingredient process optimisation within the ingredients sector. I specialise in ingredient properties and processes of pulses and other plant-protein ingredients. One of the projects I manage, Potential of plant proteins for ingredient and product development, develops techniques to produce protein-rich ingredients cost and time efficiently. Processing techniques are developed to further improve protein performance and the project will also focus on novel plant-protein sources. It looks at how plant protein ingredients can be developed to optimise their nutritional value and technical performance. The project will also investigate consumers’ expectations and insights of plant protein ingredients.”
What solutions for baked products are producers mostly seeking?
“One very topical area for the whole food industry is of course the development of vegan products. This has led the food industry to seek alternatives to egg ingredients. Egg is a very versatile ingredient and it performs a range of functions in food products and can be extremely challenging to replace. Earlier this year we launched a new Egg Replacement Club project (or Eggless as we call it), which aims to help the food industry to find suitable alternatives to replace egg in various food categories. Over 30 companies, varying from multinational to small start-ups, have shown their interest in the project, highlighting how topical and challenging egg replacement is for the bakery industry and the food industry as a whole.”
At the Fi Conference Bread & Bakery Master Class you will be presenting alternatives to eggs. What are the main issues with trying to eliminate eggs in the bakery production process?
“As I mentioned earlier, the vegan diet has grown in popularity, but there are also other factors driving egg replacement or reduction in bakery and other food products, such as fluctuations in global egg supply and pricing, health concerns associated with egg products such as the Fipronil scandal in 2017 and, of course, egg allergies. For many food products eggs are vital. They’re a unique multi-functional ingredient which is widely used across the food industry in a variety of different products. Eggs are used for aeration, emulsification, enriching, colour, shine and structure forming. Due to their ability to do so many jobs at once, many manufacturers all over the world have come to depend on using eggs. Alternatives which replace some or all these functionalities can help companies develop products which are suitable for a wider range of consumers.”
Could you give a few examples of egg substitutes and why they are a good choice?
“Increased consumer demand for plant-based products has led to significant developments and focus on novel sources of plant-based ingredients - generating greater potential for improved quality, cost-effectiveness and products that are free of common allergens. Protein ingredients, such as pulses, are known to have great functional properties including foaming, emulsification and gelling due to their chemical composition. Recent research work carried out by Campden BRI showed pulses, such as peas, beans and lentils, displayed significantly higher foam expansion, and foam volume stability when compared to egg white proteins. These ingredients, individually or in combinations, can be suitable replacements for eggs in various products.”
What plant-based ingredients can be used in baked products as clean label solutions? What are their main benefits?
“Consumers’ growing interest towards more natural and minimally processed food products have increased interest in the use of natural compounds. Plant-based ingredient solutions can provide clean label alternatives to some traditional chemical preservatives. Microbiological shelf-life of bakery products, e.g. bread, is often extended by using chemical preservatives such as calcium propionate. Most plants protect themselves from different pathogens with complex defense responses that in many cases include antifungal compounds. Antifungal activity is often linked to their ability to alter fungal cell wall permeability. The legume plant family (Fabaceae) is a potential source of antimicrobial phytochemicals – including phenolic compounds, antimicrobial proteins and peptides.”
You are studying antimicrobial properties of plants. Are their preserving properties the same as their chemical counterparts?
“Antimicrobial phytochemicals and antimicrobial proteins and peptides are found in various beans and peas. The research I have been carrying out has shown the mould free shelf-life of wheat bread can be extended by using minimally processed bean flour or bean extract. Novel plant-based ingredients from pulses could potentially provide a clean label mould inhibitor in the future. The big challenge is to find the best combination of different natural antimicrobials to achieve similar preserving properties compared to the chemical preservatives.”
What are your predictions for the F&B industry in the next 3-5 years?
“I believe the use of novel or neglected crop varieties that offer high nutritional or health benefits will keep growing in the future. These ingredients will provide a full range of new functionalities and properties for food and drink products. A greater understanding of the science, technologies and materials available is required to support products targeted at specific dietary needs, e.g. the free-from sector. New technologies and processes are needed to assist the development and production of products aimed specifically at improving diet and health.”