The 3 Pillars of Plant-Based Food Testing – Functionality, Ingredients and Safety

In the food industry, demand for plant-based products has increased significantly due to changing consumer habits and increased commitment to sustainability. Today’s food consumers are increasingly aligning their purchasing patterns with their environmental and personal health goals. For example, climate-conscious shoppers are looking for foods they perceive to be more sustainable, simple ingredient lists (also known as “clean label” products), or foods that are meat- and gluten-free. . Such products are often foods developed with plant-based ingredients, such as legumes and upcycled ingredients such as lentils and dried peas.

This trend is reflected in the increase in the number of people adopting a vegan diet, which increased by 500% between 2014 and 2017 in the United States. As a result, driving plant-based product innovation is becoming an attractive strategy for processors looking to meet customer demands and create long-term brand value. However, processors also have to contend with rising raw material costs, supply chain instability, new regulations and complex formulations as new raw materials are used in new ways.

Utilizing accurate testing and analytical techniques is essential for processors to create scalable processes and produce high-quality plant-based foods that meet the needs of both producers and consumers.

Functionality is basic

Consumers do not want to compromise on taste, texture and mouthfeel when choosing plant-based foods. Therefore, in order to ensure consumer satisfaction, it is important to have a deep understanding of the functionality of ingredients at all stages, from initial product formulation to processing. This is especially true for the incorporation of new ingredients that, due to their very new nature, often have less information about how they work compared to more commonly used ingredients like flour. Related. A true understanding of how ingredients affect formulation and performance can help manufacturers distinguish between acceptable and exceptional substitutes, thereby increasing brand strength and customer Increase satisfaction.

Whether you are an R&D start-up or a large established manufacturer, leveraging testing and analytical tools to gain in-depth insight is always important when evaluating the functionality of new ingredients. Become. Knowing how new ingredients respond to heat, stress and other ingredients is essential in product design and formulation. Otherwise, even if a new product meets taste and texture goals, it can lead to major struggles when scaling up. We test from the beginning to minimize problems and get new products to market faster.

Rheology instruments, such as ingredient performance analyzers, can provide manufacturers with critical functional data to help accelerate product development and set ingredient specifications for successful production. Near-infrared (NIR) instruments rapidly measure multiple components such as moisture, proteins, oils, and fibers. These instruments generate information for ingredient screening, process control, and final product quality. Process NIR instruments can also be directly integrated into existing process lines and process control systems, allowing automatic or manual adjustments.

Even after a stable process is established, regular monitoring is required to ensure raw materials perform as expected. Natural variations in crops from year to year may require adaptation and reformulation. Consistent monitoring gives manufacturers more control over intake. This creates opportunities for vertically integrated companies and those who source directly from producers, giving them an edge by knowing what’s coming in sooner.

Understanding the functionality of ingredients through smart testing and analysis can help processors find sustainable alternatives such as okara flour, a gluten-free, high-protein, high-fiber alternative flour produced from upcycled soy pulp. It’s also useful for creating “leftover” plant-based foods. Manufacturers have found ways to leverage by-products to create new products that meet customer demand and reduce food waste.

The Importance of Sustainable and Efficient Testing

By choosing technologies and developing processes with green practices in mind, manufacturers create opportunities to better meet customer requirements. Increased sustainability and reduced waste also mean more working hours spent on food production.

By leveraging instruments such as the NIR that are fast, use few if any consumables, and require no hazardous test chemicals, food processors can take advantage of these benefits and be set by their business. align with your sustainability goals. By ensuring that the final product is within specification through proper testing, the number of rejected or reworked batches is reduced, further reducing costs and waste.

Overall workflow efficiency also plays a key role in sustainable and effective plant-based ingredient testing. More efficient technology not only results in higher yields and faster turnarounds, it also improves the return on investment for manufacturers. By choosing a test technology that is easy to operate and interpret, plant operators can perform tests quickly and accurately with minimal training in complex analytical methods. Instruments that provide easy-to-read, visualizeable data and basic sample preparation also help assist operators in making rapid adjustments based on data from ingredient and in-process monitoring.

confidence is the key

In addition to functional and compositional analysis, safety testing is paramount to ensure customer confidence. As with conventional foods, testing plant-based ingredients for heavy metals, pathogens, pesticides and mycotoxins is the cornerstone of creating safer foods.

Safety testing should be conducted at every stage of the food journey. The cost-effective lateral flow strip test provides an easy and rapid way to test for a wide variety of mycotoxins at the point of ingestion of ingredients, preventing potentially contaminated batches from mixing with other batches . With rapid results available and suitable for both the lab and field, it is versatile and easily integrated into processor workflows. For pathogen, metal, and pesticide testing that requires more effort and expertise, the combined sampling protocol should be the bare minimum for manufacturers. For heavy metal analysis, for example, inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) provides a powerful method for manufacturers to accurately detect heavy metals within compliance limits across a variety of matrices. Other high-end techniques such as liquid chromatography and his LC-MS/MS can also test for pesticides, mycotoxins and other analytes.

challenge to the future

Whether you’re a burgeoning R&D start-up or an established manufacturer, the need for versatile testing technology to inspire creative products will continue. The food industry is a constantly evolving and dynamic sector. The ability to rely on robust analytical instrumentation and technical solutions enables processors to pave the way for providing consumers with novel, high-quality, plant-based products that meet their demands.

Characterization of novel ingredients is fundamental to further growth in the rapidly growing plant-based food market. Attributes such as ease of use, speed, descriptive results for decision making, and sustainability are all important considerations when choosing a tool to gain comprehensive ingredient and product knowledge. With demands for sustainability, safety and palatability, as well as increasing expectations for efficiency of producers, processors and laboratories, it is more important than ever to utilize accurate testing tools.

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