The Demand of Protein: Animals and Plants

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The demand of protein ingredients has surged over the last few years. Currently, global protein ingredient was valued at USD 38 billion (2019) and expected to grow at a rate of 9.1% until 2027. The consumption of animal proteins is increasing each year as well with plant protein. Plant protein can offset the market because they can be produced at a competitive price.

As we all know, animal proteins need land and other natural resources to be able to be produced. However, the growing food industry and the increasing population and consumer awareness is propelling the protein market and the need for alternative protein ingredients.

Furthermore, there is also another concern on food security and preserving land and water resource due to climate change, population growth, and changing diets. Purchasing habits can improve environment and gaining prominence. Another reason is regarding on protein allergenicity. Eggs, dairy and soy are the top allergens that is recognized by Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers are still likely to stick to meat proteins due to the lack of product knowledge, nutritional value and branding on alternative proteins. Nutrition quality of protein is determined by its essential amino acid, digestibility, protein utilization and biological value.

Figure 1. Protein quality assessment based on animal and plant protein source

By looking at the data, animal proteins are more digestible. The main reason is on the protein structure. Plant proteins have more beta sheet rather than alpha helix which makes them more resistant in the digestive system. Plant proteins also contain more fiber which cause them to have lower digestibility. To solve this issue, proper processing techniques can help increase the digestibility of plant proteins.

Besides that, off-flavors can develop especially in legumes. Customer may perceived  the word “green,” “beany,” “painty,” and “grassy” regarding the off-flavors. They are caused by the source of the raw material, processing, and/or storage. Proper processing and storage can help to mask off the off flavors produced by legumes.

One objective of alternative proteins still remains. It is to have consumer to think that they are eating meat product by mimicking the structure, composition, appearance, and flavor of animal protein products. However, the complex structure of animal proteins is hard to be reproduced with plant-based ingredients. Therefore, the search for plant proteins that provide 99% similarity on function and properties similar to animal proteins is still being search in an increased pace.

With the rapid increase of food technology, we are also trying to search for the best alternative protein combination that can result in properties and function same as meat protein. The details can be seen on our Instagram!

Source: Animal Frontiers, Volume 10, Issue 4, October 2020, Pages 53–63
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