pea plants in field

LInnovative and Sustainable Exploitation of Plant Proteins in Future Foods.

01 Apr 2017 - 21 Mar 2021

BIONÆR programme, The Research Council of Norway 

About the project

The project aims to build a knowledge platform for Norway to facilitate production and value creation from plant based protein-rich resources to future food products. This will be done by integrate knowledge on crops, composition of the raw materials, technologies, nutrition and health, environmental impacts in food production as well as consumer and market issues as illustrated in the figure below

  • Increased production and utilization of plant protein bioresources in food products leads to a desirable shift to more plant based diets with a positive environmental impact, improved sustainable food choice for consumers, and value creation in the circular bioeconomy.

  • FoodProFuture aims to develop the knowledge platform for optimal productionand utilization of Norwegian plant raw materials into tasty, healthy and attractive plant-based food products with high protein content. Combination of knowledge from this platform will enable the Norwegian food industry to produce high quality and more sustainable 

Work packages

  • Environmental assessments show that plant proteins have a lower climate impact than protein from meat, seafood and dairy products. This work package will analyze the total environmental and social impact of substituting parts of the animal protein with plant based protein, based on the situation in Norway and give input to the development of new sustainable plant protein based products.  

    Objectives: Analyse total life cycle environmental impacts of existing protein products and for new products and processes developed within the project.  Give input during the project on how to make products and processes as sustainable as possible. In addition, the social sustainability will be analysed, starting with a defining stage where the most important social effects will be identified and indicators developed.   

    Key research tasks:

    T1.1 Analyse and compare environmental sustainability of existing high protein raw materials (meat, dairy and fish products) with high protein plants grown in Norwegian conditions: Using Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology, the environmental impact of plant-based protein sources will be analysed and compared with existing animal and fish based protein sources per kg product and per kg protein. In order to make a fair comparison of new and existing products, intermediate products and processes, Life Cycle Assessment methodology must be modified and adapted to suit the products, geographical area and technologies used.  A challenging part of the project will be to allocate fertilizer input and effects of nitrogen fixation between different crops in crop rotation.

    T1.2 Give input to the other work packages during the project to achieve maximum environmental benefit: Ecodesign research shows that there are large benefits of taking environmental issues very early in the design of products. In this project LCA can be used in many ways, for example to choose processes, select materials, raw materials and products. The results of the LCA done during the project on the different life cycle stages (agriculture, processing, transport) and on processes, products and intermediate products will be communicated to the other work packages in order to achieve optimal sustainable solutions.

    T1.3 Analyse and compare social sustainability of actual plant-based pilotproducts and existing products that are assumed to be replaced: The social sustainability of new and existing products will be analysed. First, the social effects that are relevant by must be identified and prioritized, taking into account the whole value chain. Secondly, method must be chosen. Thirdly indicators that represent and quantify socially relevant effects must be developed. Finally, total social effects will be quantified, allowing product comparison. Interrelation with other WPs: Close relation with all other work packages. Data will be collected from the work done in WP2, WP3, WP4 and WP5 and feedback given during the course of the project. 

  • Grain legumes give high protein yields, and are important to increase sustainability in the cropping systems.  This work package shall develop solutions to key limiting factors for the production of food-grade grain legume crops under Norwegian conditions. Protein sources from oats will also be explored. 

    Key research tasks:

    T2.1 Improving agronomic strategies for food-grade grain legume crop production: Pea production strategies will be developed that allow for less insect damage, earlier maturity, lodging resistance and higher yields. Conduct intercropping trails with peas, and screenings trials in South-eastern Norway with pea, faba bean and soybean varieties focusing on key traits such as early maturity. Analyse the content of nutrients and antinutritional compounds in peas and faba bean varieties grown under Norwegian agronomic conditions in collaboration with WP 4. Investigate alternative management and harvesting strategies for the production of immature faba beans and soybean (edamame) as a vegetable crop, and the market potential of these products and WP 5. Determine the effect of management practices, including fertilization strategy, on the synthesis of starches and proteins from the pre-storage phase to maturity in faba beans and peas. Study the agronomic,environmental and economic impacts of grain legume crops in a crop rotation with cereals, and provide data for lifecycle analysis together with WP1. A PhD student will be linked toT2.1.

    T2.2 Better utilization of protein sources from oats: Develop strategies that lower the risk of mycotoxins and increase the protein content of oats grown under Norwegian conditions using variety performance trials combined with new fertilization practices. Study the effect of weather, variety and fertilization strategy on the synthesis of starches and proteins during the filling and ripening phases

  • Innovative and sustainable processing technologies are necessary to utilize  plant resources into tasty, healthy and attractive plant-based food products with high protein content. The workpackage aims to produce protein-rich ingredients and model products based on dry fractionation combined with other processing technologies.

    Objectives: Develop technological platform for fractionation and handling of plant materials that are less energy and resource- intensive than wet fractionation to deliver new functional protein, starch and fibre ingredients suitable for healthy and consumer acceptable food products. Improve added value of raw plant material and fractions thereof, including reduction of ANF by different mechanical, thermal and biotechnological tools such as milling, extrusion, baking, fermentation and enzymatic treatments. 

    Key research tasks:

    T3. 1 Fractionation of selected grain legumes and cereals: Develop competence platform on DryFraTec of dried plant materials and plant side streams necessary pre-processing based on established methodology at Nofima and VTT developed in Barley Boost (EU-RSME project). Selected plant materials from WP2 and industrial partners (Felleskjøpet, Lantmannen Cerealia, Norsk Matraps) will be fractionated by using combinations of cleaning, dehulling, milling, sieving and air classification into protein, starch, lipid and fibre enriched fractions. Developed processing methodology will be tested and verified in large scale equipment at Hosokawa Alpine, Germany.

    T3.2 Novel modifications for improving protein, starch and dietary fibre enriched fractions into food ingredients: Develop methods to reduce the concentration of ANF that effect digestibility of protein and starch based on mechanical, thermal, biotechnological and chemical treatments and combinations of these. Implement extrusion technology to provide texturized proteins for ingredients in model foods. Functional properties together with acceptable shelf life, sensory quality and consumer acceptance will be the selection parameters.

    T3.3 Protein, starch and dietary fibre rich fractions and their combinations into model foods: Specific model foods such as cereal products (bread, and energy/protein bars), extruded food products (breakfast cereals, pasta, snacks) and meat analogues produced from texturized plant proteins. Furthermore, liquid foods (smoothies, beverages, yoghurt) as well as soups and base mixtures will be produced. Other available non-animal protein sources such as mushroom and macro algae and side-streams from T3.1 and WP2 as well as potato starch production are other potential ingredients alone or in combined products. The model foods will be tested for sensory and nutritional quality in collaboration with WP4 to increase knowledge and feasibility for production of new and innovative edible foods. A food science based competence platform-centred on plant constituents and products will be available for future industrial projects. 

  • The work package shall identify both beneficial and anti-nutritional components of raw materials and processed food  products, and provide in-depth knowledge on health and safety aspects of plant-based products . This also includes optimalisations to preserve high sensory quality and satisfactory functional quality for processing. 

    Objectives To identify both beneficial and anti-nutritional components of selected raw and processed plant and legume materials and food products. To investigate and optimize processes that preserve and improve taste and functional properties, providing healthy food products for the consumers and a novel product line of commercial interest for the food industry.

    Key research tasks:

    T4.1 Nutrient quality: Task leader Tove Devold, NMBU. Gross composition (protein, lipids, carbohydrates, dietary fibre), content of selected beneficial compounds (ess. amino acids and minerals) and anti-nutritional components (protease inhibitors, saponins, FODMAPS, etc) will be identified in selected raw (WP2) and processed plants and legumes for foods (WP3). A special focus will be on protein content, and essential and branched-chain amino acids. The overall positive nutritional value of raw and processed plant sources or ingredients for food products will be selected for further studies.

    T4.2 Functional properties suitable for food applications:  Task leader Kurt Draget, NTNU. Extensive knowledge of processing properties of plant proteins is scarce compared to animal proteins. Such properties are crucial for innovative food products. Waterbinding and solubility, viscosity, gelation, emulsification and other essential functional properties will be analysed as a function of extraction/treatment protocol to map the applicability in novel food application.

    T4.3 Sensory properties: Task Leader Paula Tomasco, Nofima. Sensory characterization of selected raw (WP2), processed and food based plant materials (WP3), using the trained sensory panel at Nofima, will be performed through descriptive sensory analysis (ref. ISO 6564:1985 E). Approximately 20 (product specific) sensory attributes will be assessed. The information obtained will be used for detailed sensory characterization of plant and legume materials used as food and the sensory information will be related to the consumers’ acceptance or potential rejection (WP5).

    T4.4 Nutrient bioavailability and health effects: Task leader Tor Lea, NMBU. Plant and legume proteins and products (WP2, WP3) will be subjected to gastrointestinal digestion (Minecus et al, 2014) with human digestive enzymes. Interactions with other nutrients affecting their bioavailability will be studied. In vitro cell models will be used to investigate possible effects on epithelial-, immune cells and inflammation. Products from selected plants will be included in experimental diets and tested for in vivo effects of proteins from different plants and compared with diets containing animal-based proteins. Special emphasis will be on intestinal microbiota composition, intestinal barrier function, nutrient/amino acid sensing pathways and systemic inflammation, a main feature of chronic lifestyle diseases. 

  • Knowledge of the  consumers  perceptions related to high-protein plant-based foods is necessary to succeed in a future shift towards a more sustainable diet. The work package shall provide insight about consumer demands for plant-based products and their markets, and uncover current barriers in the food system blocking the shift towards a more sustainable diet. 

    Objectives: Understand European lead markets with high plant based food consumption, apply insights to future scenarios for Norway. Understand consumer, industry, retailers, and food service providers’ attitudes, barriers and needs related to increased consumption and sales of plant based food. Develop viable opportunities to increase production and consumption of Norwegian produced plant-based food. Develop design thinking based collaboration and co-creation innovation techniques and models for sustainable food production and as novel collaboration tool in research projects.

    Key research tasks:

    T5.1 Investigate European lead markets with high plant based food consumption/offering: Build a knowledge platform around supply, consumption, communication approaches (label, in store, advertisement, and policy), and products in selected lead countries (i.e. UK, Germany, France) and compare them to Norway. Develop future scenarios for Norway in light of the observed data and trends and assessment of these scenarios in a multidisciplinary approach by consumers, industry, and experts with regards to likelihood and impact.

    T5.2 Investigate consumer, industry, retailers, and food service providers’ attitudes, barriers, and needs related to increased consumption of Norwegian protein-rich plant-based food: Conduct interviews and focus groups using European benchmarking products as stimulus to explore knowledge, attitudes and beliefs related to protein-rich plants and products developed from such plants including retail communication. Develop and execute a large-scale consumer survey (N=500-1000) using a representative sample of the Norwegian population to investigate the distribution of knowledge, attitudes, preferences, and barriers consumers have related to consumption of protein-rich plant-based food. Include France for comparison in a cross-country study jointly with our partner INRA. Run interviews with industry, retailers, and food service providers about beliefs, barriers and needs related to increased sales of Norwegian protein-rich plant-based food products and include other countries for comparison of attitudes.

    T5.3 Validation with consumers and industry: Validate products and novel concepts with consumers and industry partners by using prototypes from WP3 and concepts developed in T5.4. The use of consumer/user co-creation techniques such as speed loop testing and hackathon events lead by designers will assure rapid iteration of ideas and high relevancy of the project outcomes for the future consumers. Conduct randomized trial field experiment in canteens of project partners to test acceptance and satisfaction with products using protein-rich plants and products developed from such plants as main protein source (incl. nudging).

    T5.4 Innovation strategies and methodologies: Match consumer and market needs from T5.1, T5.2, T5.3 with feasible technology and product ideas according to possible impact (sustainability, health, agriculture, value creation potential) from WPs 1, 2, 3, 4. Perform an opportunity map workshop as central collaboration and knowledge transfer mechanism in the FoodProFuture project. Develop innovation strategies for new products, services, business models etc. to “serve” the most viable future scenarios (input from WP2 and 3) in line with WP1 (sustainability, carbon footprint). Develop design thinking based collaboration and co-creation innovation techniques and models for sustainable food production and product development in close link to WP3

  • Development of dissemination and communication plan for the project.

    Objectives: To ensure the efficient dissemination of knowledge developed during this project. To ensure that the environmental and ecological sustainability of the proposed system achieve. To ensure a viable commercial basis for post project exploitation of the technology.

    Key dissemination and implementation tasks:  

    T6.1 Develop dissemination and communication plan: All partners will be engaged in WP6 and they are expected to establish interaction and research information into practice and to act as multipliers of information. A detailed dissemination and communication plan for the project will be developed. This will identify respective target-groups, channels and types of deliverables such as: academia (~17 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals), national and international policy-makers (policy briefs/newsletters, tailored seminars/workshops), industry stakeholders (professional magazines, workshops, meetings and conferences) and education. Communication of the current activities and results will be a continuous activity directed to the different groups of collaborators of the project. In addition, the project will use a variety of communication media including television, magazines and newspapers. A detailed time/activity plan will be established in cooperation with the steering group with the aim of verifying the main goal of the project and how this solves major challenges for the industry and society. Related industrial networks and technology platforms (i.e. FoodNexus, NTP Food for life, Fremtidsmat etc.) will be actively used as arenas for knowledge transfer including teaching of students and post-qualifying education. In addition, we will engage in workshops and targeted presentations to potential partners including technical presentation and discussion, as well as prototype demos.

    T6.2 Exploitation strategy: We will develop an Exploitation Strategy for the management of knowledge and intellectual property, which will be linked with the various dissemination activities planned. The basis of the strategy is to allow the new scientific knowledge created by the project to be actively disseminated amongst academic communities to validate it, and industrial communities to implement it. However, prior to the program of dissemination activities, the partners will patent the technological capabilities developed. Results from “T5.4 Innovation strategies and methodologies” will be directly fed into WP6. Our associated partner EAT will will provide access for the FoodProFuture project to their collaboration network of research institutions, corporations, and NGOs for dissemination purposes in order to support a rapid uptake of the generated knowledge for further innovation exploitation and value creation. After testing and evaluation, the Consortium will carry out dissemination of the preliminary results to potential customers and partners in related projects. The results will also be disseminated to other sectors where some parts of the technology could be applied.

    T6.3 Website portal: At the start of a project, a website will be established to provide a vehicle for dissemination of information within the consortium and to the wider professional and general public. Project documents will be posted on the private sector of the project website so that all partners can access it at any time, but it will remain hidden from the public.

Project Consortium:

Nine national and five international  academic partners are involved in the research activities.
Fourteen partners form food industry companies are actively participating with advices and raw materials