The food revolution has begun in Rome! From 24 to 26 July 2023, the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was filled with hope and action at the event UN Food System Summit + Stocktaking Moment.
More than 2,000 participants from 161 countries, including 22 heads of state and government, joined this epic gathering, along with over 100 ministerial delegates and more than 150 non-state actor organisations. The goal: to transform food systems for a sustainable future. CARTIF, in its commitment to the transformation of the Food System and in its role as coordinator of the FUSILLI Project, was present at the UN Food System Summit to follow the latest recommendations and continue designing innovative projects and solutions to help companies, cities and society in general in this transition towards a sustainable food system.
Although progress has been made since the 2021 Summit, we still face pressing challenges – more than 780 million people suffer from hunger and a third of food goes to waste! But here at UNFSS+2, we refuse to give up.
The first session, “Harnessing Urbanisation for Food Systems Transformation“, shone with innovative ideas. Urbanisation is a powerful driving force for change in the agri-food system, and cities play a crucial role in shaping the future of food.
How do we achieve a food revolution? By empowering cities to lead the change. Investing in technology and innovative solutions is key to ensuring sustainability – it´s time to choose healthier and more environmentally friendly food options! The future is now. Peru and Morocco are shining examples of successful governance mechanisms. In Peru, governance mechanisms at local and municipal level have been successful in promoting food security and nutrition. More than 20 actions directly related to cities have focused on improving food security and food health well-being. And Morocco, a shining example of harnessing urbanisation for food systems transformation, has focused on becoming greener, localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopting Mediterranean country initiative and embracing multi-stakeholder actions. These efforts are driving positive change in food systems and fostering sustainability.
This event is more than a summit, it is a call to action, it is time to step forward towards inclusive and sustainable food systems! The food revolution is underway, and you can be part of it!
The second day (25 July 2023) immersed us in the blue transformation of food systems. Representatives from various parts of the world came together to address the challenges and opportunities surrounding aquatic food systems.
The creation of a Global Action Network for Sustainable Aquatic Food was at the heart of the session. The goal? To monitor and ensure responsible fishing practices, develop infrastructure, improve market access and preserve our marine resources – aquatic food is a treasure trove of nutrients essential for human health and prosperity.
Norway and its commitment to sustainable aquatic food left me in awe. With initiatives to monitor and ensure the sustainability of aquaculture, preserve nutrients and increase fish consumption in marginalised communities, Normway is leading the way to a healthier future in the blue economy!
But it is not only Norway that shines, Indonesia also presented its ambitious Blue Economy Plan 2025 – 2035. With ample maritime resources, Indonesia aims for inclusive and sustainable growth – aquatic food, rich in protein and with a low carbon footprint, is at the heart of its vision for responsible development!
South Africa and Tanzania also made waves with their visions for a sustainable future. South Africa focused on eradicating hunger and providing nutritious food through the sustainable use of aquatic resources. Meanwhile, Tanzania highlighted the importance of an inclusive and sustainable blue economy, encompassing multiple stages of production, processing and consumption.
The European Union (EU) was not far behind, showing its dedication to the blue agenda and emphasising collaboration between all actors in the food system. The EU is committed to improving infrastructure, livelihoods and connectivity with Africa to achieve a thriving blue economy.
During the session “Governance for Food System Transformation”, an essential truth was echoed: governance is key to a sustainable future. Inclusion, collaboration and leadership are fundamental to shaping resilient food systems around the world.
From the Lebanese Parliament, the power of legislation as a catalyst for impactful food initiatives was highlighted. Ensuring clear roles and responsabilities for all stakeholders is crucial for consensus and effective implementation.
Collaboration between stakeholders was also highlighted by the Ugandan delegate, who underlined that coordination and communication are key to driving change in food systems.
Financing initiatives for food systems transformation were also discussed, with representatives from Indonesia and Switzerland sharing their strategies. Access to finance and support for private investment are essential to achieve evidence-based policies and sustainability.
Furthermore, the importance of ensuring that decisions and policies consider the rural perspective was emphasised. Inclusion, transparency and access to resources such as land and water are key to transformative change.
Digitalisation shone during the sessión “Digitalisation for Resilient Food Systems”. Technology, data and digital solutions are key to acccelerating the transformation of the food system.
From the World Economic Forum, it was underlined that digitalisation is a game changer. Artificial intelligence and real-time analytics are essential for progress.
Data platforms were also mentiones as a powerful tool to empower farmers with valuable and actionable information in real time.
The private sector demonstrated its importance in shaping resilient food systems. Public-private partnerships, responsible investments and collaboration are key to achieving sustainable outcomes.
The German government stressed that including private investment is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the need to act responsibly and sustainably to ensure progress was emphasised.
The private sector was also encouraged to support nutrition and prioritise health over profitability. Collaboration and accountability are key to driving positive change.
In conclusion, resilient food systems are within our reach. With a blue transformation of aquatic systems, inclusive governance, digitisation and private sector engagement, we can build a sustainable and equitable future for all.
Day three was a day full of solutions, challenges and next steps for food systems transformation!
In the first session of the day, experts and stakeholders gathered to discuss “Mobilising Means of Implementing Food Systems Transformation”. Critical aspects for accelerating progress towards more sustainable food systems were explored. The World Bank presented an innovative tool called “REALTIME3Fs“, designed to financially support small and medium enterprises, farmers and other key actors. This tool addresses five essential pillars – food systems infrastructure, agricultural and value chain development, social protection, climate change and natural resources, and nutrition – ensuring that fianancial resources reach the most vulnerable sectors and promote holistic transformation.
However, challenges were identified in the financing of food systems, as global Official Development Assistance for food systems decreased in 2021. This raises concerns about the adequacy of funding to drive comprehensive change. This is where the role of the private sector becomes critical, as it is expected to invest in 50% of the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Investment in science, innovation and technology, as well as strengthening data and monitoring systems, were proposed as key solutions to accelerate transformation. In addition, the importance of trade in addredding global food gaps and meeting SDG2 (Zero Hunger) was highlighted. However, to achieve effective transformation, the need fir adequate governance, the participation of all stakeholders and a global financing agenda involving the private was emphasised.
The closing session reaffirmed the urgen need to mobilise resources for food systems transformation. Several challenges were highlighted, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the global crises and the war in Ukraine, which have further destabilised food systems and threatened vulnerable populations with hunger and malnutrition.
It called for concerted and urgent action in six key areas to achieve the potential of food systems: mainstreaming food strategies into national sustainable development policies, inclusive governance, investment in research and innovation, participatory design and implementation, private sector engagement and access to finance.
The UN Food Systems Centre will focus on coordinating inclusive national processes, and the entire UN system will work to enhance coordination and partnerships for real transformation.
In short, transforming food systems is a collective journey towards a sustainable future. Collaboration between countries, organisations and sectors is essential to achieve meaningful change and ensure that no one is left behind. With a focus on sustainability, equity and mutual accountability, we can build more resilient and just food systems for all. The future of food is in our hands!
The global challenges we face in achieving sustainable resource management, while delivering economic development, require the close collaboration of all actors in a chain consisting of industrial (business), government and research sectors. In this context, Circular Economy offers solutions to change and enhance the traditional Linear Economy and the development of a Circular Bioeconomy is a crucial opportunity for sustainable growth at regional, national and international level, through the contribution of all sectors involved. The Bioeconomy is defined as a set of activities that encompasses all sectors and systems that are based on biological resources (animals, plants, macro-organisms, and the biomass derived from them, including organic by-products).
The Circular Bioeconomy requires a boost from the private sector which, combined with a brave and decisive strategy from public administrations, provides a regulatory framework that generates social consensus, active participation of the value chain, drives business investments and reinforces legal certainty; all with the dual objective of creating stable and quality employment and advancing in the ecological transition of our economy. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed. According to estimates by the European Commission, for example, if all the current regulations were applied in the specific case of waste, more than 400,000 jobs would be created in the European Union, of which 52,000 would be in Spain.
Some of the projects proposed in this area are linked to the reuse of packaging, the development of renewable gases, the promotion of domestic energy self-consumption or the incentive of industrial recycling in sectors such as the automotive industry. All of these projects are promoted with the clear intention of contributing to the transformation of the production system, raising its sustainability standards and taking advantage of all the economic opportunities offered by the Circular Economy as a whole and the Circular Bioeconomy in particular.
In this sense, INBEC project is a Circular Bioeconomy project whose objective has been to promote the creation of new industries and economic activities, as well as the diversification of productive activities through the transformation of biological resources and the development of new bioproducts and services. This project has sought to maximise the potential of this area in Castille and Leon and Portugal, promoting the presence in new markets and the demand of this type of reosurces and products.
To this end, INBEC has encouraged and promoted a sustainable economy by increasing busines competitiveness in all sectors identifying existing resources in the regional sector of the Bioeconomy and Circular Economy, and thus promoting the development of R&D&I projects and cross-border cooperation, the creation of new industries and economic activities based on the transformation of biological resources and maximising the potential of the Bioeconomy.
Among the actions that have been carried out throughout the project, the following should be highlighted:
Characterisation and identification studies of companies, resources and activities by areas with the aim of finding out about the industrial base and endogenous resources present in areas of action. CARTIF has contacted and visited more than 25 companies in Valladolid and Zamora.
Nine action plans, one for each target area, have been drawn up to define the potential of possible actions to be
implemented in the field of bioeconomy and circular economy.
In terms of awareness-raising workshops, CARTIF has actively participated in the 16 workshops carried out in the project with the objective of informing and debating with SMEs and the self-employed on the principles of the bioeconomy and the benefits it generates for companies and society.
CARTIF has organized nine training and innovation workshops, about innovative solutions in matter of organization and management of productive processes, solutions for the implementation of new product design, containers and packaging.
Individual diagnostics and implementation plans,dealing with the degree of innovation of companies, self-employed and entrepeneurs in terms of organisation and process management. CARTIF has carried out more than 25 personalised diagnoses in Spain (Valladolid, Salamanca and Avila) and Portugal (Beiras e Serra da Estrela, Coimbra and Douro) with the actions and roadmaps to be followed to implement the proposed innovations.
As for the project bank, initiatives have been collected to generate new technologies or economic activities in the field of Bioeconomy. CARTIF has carried out more than 20 tutorials in the areas of Portugal (Terra Tràs Os Montes, Beiras, Coimbra, Serra da Estrela and Douro) and has provided technical support in the implementation of collaborative R&D&IMprojects and/or projects that have generated new activities in the field of Bioeconomy.
Finally, with regard to the promotion of demand and market development, the INBEC project has drawn up a digitalisation itinerary for companies, freelancers and entrepeneurs working in the Bioeconomy and Circular Economy sector. To this end, digitisation workshops, diagnoses and implementation plans have been carried out, focused on bringing closer and facilitating the incorporation of ICT solutions as tools for the substantial improvement of the competitiveness of companies, freelancers and entrepeneurs. On the other hand, by-products and secondary materials derived form the Bioindustry have been identified and puto to good use with the aim of exptending the value chain of biotechnological materials and products. A Joint Comercialisation and Marketing Plan for bioproducts and by-products present in each study area has also been carried out, with the aim of becoming more competitive through a joint comercialisation strategy with the collaboration of different agents and companies. To conclude this activity and the project, CARTIF has organised an Internatinal Forum for the exhibition and exchange of bioproducts, bioprocesses, application technologies and knowledge,etc. to share all the results of the project and in this way value and take advantage of the potential of the agents participating in it and promote the development of this new economy among society.
As a final conclusion, after the ,completion of this three-year project, more than 140 interviews with companies, entrepeneurs, freelancers and relevant agents have been carried out duringthe course of the project. On the other hand, more than 200 participants have been trained in training days, more than 150 participants in training workshops in the field of Bioeconomy and Circular Economy and technology transfer has been facilitated to more than 100 companies, advising and tutoring them to incorporate innovations and improvements in their production processess and in the design of their products/services. Likewise, a study of the best initiatives in the field of Bioeconomy and Circular Economy has been carried out (more specifically 20 detailed initiatives), technical support and tutoring has been given to more than 50 companies in collaboration with research organisations and/or technology centres for the implementation of collaborative R&D&I projects and/or projects that have generated new activities in the field of Bioeconomy. More than 100 people have been trained in the incorporation of ICTs focused on marketing and e-commerce, the degree of digital maturity of the companies has been assessed and a personalised plan has been drawn up to implement the technologies identified, an analysis of bio-products and bio-processes that could be incorporated into the value chain of the entities in order to promote their competitiveness (in the areas of action) has been carried out and a joint commercialisation and marketing plan for bio-products and by-products present in each study area has been drawn up with the aim of making the companies more competitive through this joint commercialisation strategy. Finally, through the organisation of the International Forum and by means of different working groups and with the institutional presence of relevant international entities, the potential of all the participating agents has been valued and exploited, thus promoting the development of this new economy among society.
INBEC project, in its beginnings, coincided with the health situation by COVID-19, a situation that affected the execution of the tasks. However, throughout the project we have had the opportunity to bring together a large working team (Instituto para la Competitividad Empresarial de la Junta de Castilla y León; Universidad de Salamanca; Diputación de Ávila; Fundación CESEFOR; Fundación Patrimonio Cultural de la Junta de Castilla y León; Fundación CARTIF; Instituto Politécnico de Bragança e Instituto Pedro Nunes) to evaluate the progress of the project, share all the information collected, as well as the problems encountered throughout its implementation to achieve an undoubted success in its execution.
INBEC project with file 0627_INBEC_6_E has been co-financied by the European Regional Development Fund ERDF through the INTERREG V-A Spain-Portugal (POCTEP) 2014-2020.
Food is intrinsically linked to our health and quality of life to the extent that melatimes play a crucial role in satisfying our needs both on a biological level (the nutrients provided by the food we eat) and on a psychosocial level. Among these moments are those associated with breaks, leisure or moments of distraction typically associated with the consumption of snacks.
The snack concept encompasses a wide range of products and is associated ready-to-eat foods that we find appetising, that do not cost too much, that are easy to carry around and that satisfy our cravings at the moment we need them.
The pandemic caused by Covid exarcebated the consumption of these products, for different reasons, such as the stress associated with loneliness, the situation per se or caring for our loved ones in pandemix conditions, turning them into products of true self-praise and indulgence and, even more, inseparable companions to beer and wine that lessened the asocial feeling that plagued us in many cases.
There is no doubt that our food consumption choices are associated with a multitude of factors, and stress is one of them. People are currently experiencing more stress than ever before and studies indicate that the year 2020 specifically was “the worst and most stressful year we have ever experienced” (Gallup, 2021)1 .
In the post-pandemic, a hybrid consumption scenario has been maintained where we continue to snack indoors, but we return to leisure occasions, to our workplaces, turning breaks and meal times into occasions for this snacking.
Snacking, or the consumption of snacks and caloric foods or beverages between meals, is a factor related to mental and physical health and has been specifically linked to obesity and thus with obesity-related. In fact, such products have been defined as an obesogenic product category.
This is where we can distinguish between healthy snacking (fruit, vegetables, nutritionally well-formulated processed foods) and the snacks that should be the subject of the law (high in fat, sugar, and high in salt)
Snacking, of whatever kind, is part of our diet, and some people even prefer this way of eating through small meals as part of their lifestyle, rather than larger meals that may encompass the concept of sitting down at the table. We have been talking about snacking as a trend for some time now and here at CARTIF, we continue to look at the best ways to satisfy
this new way of eating or this trend of snacking in between meals in a healthier way.
“Snacks is a food that is generally a samll portion consumed between main meals. Snacks are part of the daily diet. The question is, what are we looking for in a snack?”
How is nowadays market? What we want to eat as snack?
Snacks are still boomign in all their various forms. It is nor for nothing that the snack market is one of the largest and is forecast to grow by 6.2% per annum up to 2025. This growth is driven by a number of factors such as lifestyle, economic factors and, especially, the fact that we are eating out more, which has increased the demand for this type of products, packaged in portions and ready to eat.
As a result, snacking habits have become a subject of study for both the food industry and nutrition experts, especially as cosnumers pay more attention to maximising moments of well.being, indulgence or disconecction from the long list of activities that await us each day.
Moreover, we are increasingly aware of what we eat and the importnace of a helathy diet. With all this, we want snacks, they are part of our diet. With al this, we want snacks, they are part of our diet, but often we do not mkae the best choice (even knowing that we do not choose well) or we do not have the best products at our fingertips.
This dichotomy in the selection of the snack that we are going to taste makes it very complex to determine the guidelines we use to choose it and to make an analysis of what the consumer really demands.
“We are becoming more and more committed to our diet as a result of a better understanding of the realtionship between health and food, and snacks are no exception to this trend.”
Beyond the personal perception of what wellness and health mean, and the importance that this perception has in the choices we make when consuming these products, there are some established aspects that are also those that clearly set the market trend: we want to consume less sugar, less salt, less ultra-processed food, no additives, less trans fats and more fruit and vegetables.
In view of the consumption boom, although there is no doubt that the best snacks are at the lower end of the nutritional pyramid (fruit and vegetables), the Food Industry and researchers are working to promote and create wuality snack products that contribute to a more balanced diet through a nutrititonally balanced composition. For example, containing slower absorbing complex carbohydrates, protein, relevant micronutrients and healthies fats so that, overall, it can be considered a food that provides energy with adequate duration and nutrients with associated health benefits.
And what other factors are involved in our decisions?
Among the factors that can be included in pur eating behaviour are the so-called food environments, or what constitute the opportunities to obtain food where factors such as availability and accesssibility of food are considered. This makes it easier or harder for us to choose and consume food.
If we want to take care of ourselves, but do not want to give up snacking, and with the constrictions of the food environment in which we operate, our particular choices and food consumption can be a great opportunity to direct our attention towards healthier snacks.
In this sense, vending (or the sale of product through vending machines( is a good opportunity where schools, colleges, workplaces or other institutions can make more suitable snacks available at our fingertips, facilitating better choice.
Wouldn´t it be amazing to be able to say that snacks have come to be linke to health benefits for consumers?
We can think of formulating such products from a holistic perspective in which the product is part of a healthy and sustainable diet through its participation in the creation of a positive food environment and taking into account the above-mentioned psychosocial factors. In this light, we can start to think about the necessary ingredients.
It is well known that there is a growing interest in the consumption of certain ingredients or nutrients because of the functional properties they impart to the product and their relation to the maintenance or improvement of health-related diseases. Some options are the incorporation in the formulation to enrich with proteins from cereals or legumes, seed flours and sprouted grains, to include ingredients from the valorisation of by-products, to eliminate any additives and to process as little as possible.
The plant-based concept or foods made from plant-based ingredients has made a strong entry into this sector and is perceived as healthy products. We are looking for snacks that promote our “mental health” or a reduction in fatigue in the form of snacks that offer us energy to maintain our atttention. Breakfast substitutes in the form of a snack, but with all the nutrients we need, but we also want to know that they are sustainable products, local products and snacks that benefit our immune system – a long with list!
In the CARTIF Food Area, we continue to work in line with nutritional requirements in researching the use of new sources of ingredients for the development of healthy and sustainable snacks with good sensory acceptability. This is a real challenge for the food industry, aware of the priority of having products that improve well-being, provide good nutritional quality and health benefits.
This story beggins a sunday afternoon whichever, 2 documentary in the background. With the eye half-open I distinguish a scene in which a beetle locate fresh droppings and gives them the form of a perfect ball (aaaah! hence the name “dung beetle”!! With drums and cymbals music, those beetle triumphs with his ball, facing all type of dangers, and when he finds the perfect place, buries it. Then, being loyal to the proverb “the waist of ones could be a treasure for others”, this mass of droppings is converted into the idela place for his “intimate encounters” and in the housing and food of their babys (larvae) till, finally, leave the home as adult beetles.
In the middle of this exciting adventure, my mind leaves this world moving into another world in which i see myself watching in horror how thousands of larvae came out from my food. Several seconds later, I feel a strong shake and I woke up startled. At those moment, I breath relieved but soon after…in certain mode, the dream became a reality.
The marketing authorisation of Alphitobius diaperinus (dung beetle) larvae, better known as dung beetle, was published on 5 January. With this, are already four the insect species authorized under the Regulation (UE) 2015/2283: (1) the flour larvae (Tenebrio molitor), the migratory locust (locusta migratoria), the domestic cricket (Acheta domesticus) and the dung beetle larvae (Alphitobius diaperinus). The following, I detail you more information about each of them:
Aware of the nutritional and environmental advantages of insects, at CARTIF we have an important research line aimed at developing foods that incorporate insects as an ingredient. With the main researchers of this line, María Ysabel Piñero (email@example.com) and María Luisa Mussons (firstname.lastname@example.org), we often discuss the advantages and challenges of this promising industry in the Food area.María Ysabel encourages us, as researchers, to be able to look at insects from another perspective. She tell us not to focus on the insect, but simply to see it as a good source of protein or, in other words, as a sequence of amino acids…
Forgive me, but I can´t avoid thinking about what these beetles eat and the famous phrase “we are what we eat” by the German philosopher and anthropologist Ludwig Feuerbach. Then, following my colleague´s instructions, I close my eyes and try to visualise a long sequence of amino acids.
Economic crises, conflict, inequality and subsequent food price rises make difficult to access adequate food and the lack of availability creates even more inequality. All these situations are affecting food security and preventing a path towards ending hunger and malnutrition and meeting Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero hunger, ending all forms of malnutrition and ensuring access for all people to a healthy, nutritious and sufficient diet. The reality right now is that 3 billion people cannot afford even an inexpensive healthy diet.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) monitoring of key indicators of food security and nutrition, three major drivers have been highlighted in what is happening; conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns and downturns, compounded by the underlying causes of poverty, high and persistent levels of inequality e.g. in income, productive capacity, assets, technology, education and health (FAO, 2021)2
We cannot ignore the seriousness of the situation and the need to take part in action to address the global food insecurity and nutrition situation. It goes without saying that food systems are the driving force to end food insecurity and the prevalence of malnutrition.
Several factors affect the cost of food and thus food security through food systems, food production, supply chain and food chain environments, as well as consumer demand and food policies. Moreover, we cannot think in each factor that are affecting both, the food systems and the external events that are shaping the current situation, in an isolate way.
The rate of growth of food insecurity and prevalence of all existing forms and malnutrition indicate a trend far away from the 2030 target. Moreover, given the complications arising from the current political and economic situation and the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Actions are more than necessary to achieve resilience to destabilising factors and to ensure that food systems can deliver affordable, healthy, inclusive and sustainable diets.
We need to focus on ensuring that development, innovation and economic growth reach everyone and #LeaveNoOneBehind. This is the slogan with which FAO wants to raise awareness on this World Food Day (16 October) of the serious global problem of food insecurity and malnutrition and the need to work together to create a better and more sustainable future for all.
To be part of this action, we can, for example, rediscover ourselves as part of the process and of the system, learning about sustainable diets, changing the way we eat, being part of the regeneration and transformation of the food system that is more than necessary to achieve a sustainable future. The challenges we face and the analysis of the causes and interconnections allows us to better understand global actions to establish new ways of doing things, and a unique learning opportunity for future situations. We have a path to follow in which no one should be left behind and we should establish innovative mechanisms to cope with the variability of factors that hinder their functioning. Driven by policies aimed at favouring and protecting the food and natural environment that promote behavioural change in the chain and in the consumer as part of it.
We, at CARTIF, are already part of this change by contributing to the transition of food systems in 12 pan-European cities through the FUSILLI project.
#WorldFoodDay2022 (one of the most celebrated days in the UN calendar of activities) aims to raise awareness of the need to join forces to create a better and more sustainable future for all.
Environmental concern and awareness linked to the expected population growth, and with it the increase in demand for food and the need to ensure the sustainability of resources through more efficient processes has led to a change in the consumption trends.
Consumers, increasingly concerned about health and the need to look for more natural foods, are leaning towards diets with less meat consumption, and even veggie diets (vegan, flexitarian and vegetarian), which ultimately translates into an increase in the search for alternative plant-based proteins and the generation of new plant-based foods.
Spain has 5.1 million veggies, rising from 8% in 2017 to 13% in 2021, representing a 34% growth in the veggie population in just 4 years. Moreover, a 56% of consumers indicate that they have bought at least one veggie brand simply out of curiosity due to the increase in the number of these products.
It is becoming increasingly common to find alternative products made from plant-based proteins on the shelves. Plant-based products range from plant-based alternatives to milk, the well-known plant-based drinks, which top the list of the most popular products, followed by meat analogues, but also alternatives to eggs, cheese, fish and their respective by-products.
To better understand how these products are obtained, let´s take a look at the most commonly used raw materials today, which include insects, algae, microproteins, vegetable proteins (legumes and cereals), cultured meat, which can be subjected to different processes such as fermentation, extrusion or 3D printing and which are intended to replace animal.
More extended and accepted raw materials are vegetable proteins, coming from legumes and/or cereals. With these vegetable proteins alternatives, the already known alternatives to meat products are made, such as meat analogs, meat substitutes, meat imitators or meat-without meat. All these terms makes reference to food products with sensorial characteristics, taste, texture, appearance and nutritional value similar to traditional meat products.
The most widely used and accepted raw materials are vegetable proteins from legumes and/or cereals. These vegetable proteins are used to produce the well-known alternatives to meat or meat-free meat products. All these terms refer to food products with sensory characteristics, taste, texture, appearance and nutritional value similar to those of traditional meat products.
Despite the increasing supply of meat analogues, there are still limitations to their widespread use, the main one being related to sensory properties. To ensure the success of these products, the use of plant-based proteins is not enough, as consumers are not willing to sacrifice the sensory experience. This is why the food industry is constantly working to improve the production of these products, developing and optimising technologies and processes in favour of high organoleptic and nutritional qualities. In this sense, extrusion technology for obtaining alternative protein structures to meat is one of the technological lines with the greatest potential.
Extrusion is a very versatile technology based on the application of high temperature and short times, where ingredients are continuously treated and forced through a matrix that forms and texturises them, producing several simultaneous changes in the structure and chemical composition of the ingredients through the application of thermal and mechanical energy, allowing a wide range of products to be obtained.
To learn a little more about this process and how it acts on vegetable proteins, it is necessary to differentiate the two types of routes that extrusion technology offers to obtain meat analogues. On the one hand, high moisture extrusion (also known as HME, high moisture extrusion), makes it possible to obtain non-expanded fibrous products that imitate the texture and mouthfeel of meat products. Therefore, they will be the protein base for the production of a meat analogue. On the other hand, dry extrusion produces the so-called textured vegetable protein (TVP), which is characterised by its expansion and requires subsequent hydration prior to use.
Since high-moisture extrusion creates a product with a meat-like structure, let’s see what actually happens to vegetable proteins during this process called texturisation:
It could be explained as a two-stage process; firstly, the protein is in its native state, with a complex structure and without access to its functionality. When heat and shear forces are applied during cooking, a denaturation of the protein takes place, losing its native structure and leaving the binding sites for new bonds accessible, which facilitates that in the second cooling stage, the protein reorganises itself by forming new bonds, giving rise to a product of a fibrous nature.
The greatest challenge of these processes is at the innovation in the use of extrusion-texturization technology combined with different blends of vegetable proteins to obtain improved textures.
This technology involves a double challenge: on the one hand, the choice of raw materials is a key parameter, being necessary to choose the appropiate vegetable protein source capable of providing the best characteristics to the final product with a good behaviour during processing and, on the other hand, to achieve and optimise the process conditions by adjusting the variables of each of the parameters to achieve the desired texture. Therefore, to achieve a better texture in mthe following must be taken into account: the choice of raw materials, the protein source, the protein content-isolate, concentrate, flour and the choice of conditions for the process parameters.
In short, obtaining products similar to those of animal origin by incorporating alternative protein sources such as cereals or legumes, and even algae, insects or microproteins, is one of the challenges facing the food industry. Although extrusion technology allows new plant-based products to be obtained, it is necessary to continue developing this technology in order to achieve the “perfect” analogue that meets all the requirements in terms of texture, taste and nutritional properties.
At CARTIF we work to integrate and optimise the texturization process with different ingredients and their mixtures, in order to obtain meat analogues with the best properties. An example of this, is the Meating Plants projects where we research the use of legume proteins to improve the quality of meat analogues.