15 Apr 2022 — Ingredient solutions provider Solina has developed Nextera from pea and wheat proteins to deliver on the right balance of color and flavor for vegan tuna, coined “sensorially optimized protein food.”
The protein bases are customized according to the taste, texture, nutrition and sustainability requirements of each customer including concepts such as chicken-like filets and fishless fingers.
Solina details that the challenge was to mimic the color and aroma of fish – which are lighter and more delicate than meat – while still countering the potential off-flavors of plant-based proteins.
“From our range of technologies, we chose wet extrusion for the project because this technology allows us to achieve the optimal flaky, soft fish-bite,” says a Solina spokesperson.
“Having selected the technology, our research scientists and application technologists worked to create the perfect end application, meticulously fine tuning the taste, texture and appearance to match the fish gold standard as closely as possible.”
Fish alternatives are good for profit margins
Consumers are increasingly interested in plant-based fish alternatives, with 60% of German meat substitute users expressing an openness to try plant-based fish products, Solina reports.
This presents manufacturers with an opportunity to improve profit margins. While fish is more expensive than meat, the plant-based alternatives to fish and meat applications have very similar development costs.
Specialists at Solina excluded any unwanted interaction effects on texture or aroma that might arise during post-processing or heat treatment of Nextera proteins.
“Nextera leverages our heritage in animal protein and experience in the global savory food industry to partner with companies looking to develop new protein foods,” the Solina spokesperson says.
“The offer includes end-to-end guidance, a concept-to-launch approach, for food companies and brands, including concept scoping, assisting raw material selection, providing ultimately professional culinary support and commercial advice.”
Mega-catch for fish alternative manufacturers
A host of companies are pouncing on the fish alternative boom. Royal DSM, for example, developed a vegan flavor solution, Maxavor Fish YE, derived from algal oil to elevate authentic fish taste and mouthfeel.
The allergen-free flavor solutions allows food manufacturers to deliver across a variety of plant-based fish alternative applications, in addition to fish-based products. These could include vegetarian fish nuggets, vegan fish sauce and fish cakes.
Alternative seafood player Plantish, which uses plant proteins to create premium, whole-cut fish, has raised US$12.45 million in seed funding, understood to be the largest seed round to date in the burgeoning alt-seafood market.
In other moves, cell-cultured seafood pioneer Finless Foods expanded its product portfolio to include a new plant-based tuna offering consisting of nine whole, plant-based ingredients that are cooked and seasoned to mimic the taste and texture of tuna. It was specifically designed to act as a substitute for raw tuna in dishes like poke and spicy tuna rolls.
By Inga de Jong
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