23 Nov 2022 — US food tech start-up Levana Nourishments has created a plant-based meal replacement shake suitable for special dietary needs and sports. The shakes are available on a private-label basis to the B2B nutraceutical and functional food sectors.
“There is a great need for a product like this. A complete meal replacement made with all-natural and highly nutritious highly beneficial ingredients composed with all food compliances to accommodate various consumer groups with special nutrition needs,” Levana Kirschenbaum, CEO and founder, tells NutritionInsight.
“Consumers seek meal replacements for multiple reasons and want a clean label product that tastes good. My formula is designed to restore one’s nutritional balance and subsequent well-being,” she says.
Meeting a need with R&D
Under the close guidance of globally recognized food scientist Joe Regenstein, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Food Science for Cornell University, and following years of R&D experiments at the Pure Functional Foods Plant in New York, Kirschenbaum arrived at a composition of hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, avocado, and other all-natural ingredients for her formulations.
A driving factor in creating these meal replacement shakes was the high sugar content and non-nutritive ingredients found in many commercial and institutional meal replacements.
Kirschenbaum says she drew on her experience in the natural food industry as the author of four cookbooks and a restaurateur in New York to create meal replacement shakes with pure, simple and familiar plant-based ingredients.
Production challenges involved an ultra-fine grind for effortless ingestion to make the powder fine enough to be suitable for parenteral feeding formulations. To solve this, the protein from the hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds – the main ingredients in the formulations – first has to be separated from the fat. The fat is then naturally processed into powder, using tapioca as a carrier. Both are then reintroduced into the formulation matrix.
“The main R&D challenge was arriving at the very fine grind so prized in powdered meal replacement foods. Because our formulations contain so many seeds, the risk we incurred with grinding beyond a certain baseline calibration was accidentally going from a powder to a paste (like peanut butter),” explains Kirschenbaum.
The team temporarily removed all the fats from the seeds, processed them into a fine powder with tapioca as a carrier, and then returned the resulting oil blend powder to the seeds for a fine grind. The grueling but fascinating process got us the wonderful results we worked for.
“The ingredients in the formulation were chosen specifically because they are 100% natural vegetables and grain that offer all the elements needed for a wholesome meal. My line provides a short list of natural, familiar ingredients,” she says.
She further notes that the ingredients were chosen because they are highly nutritious, well tolerated, and compliant with the overwhelming majority of allergen culprits.
“These healthful fats are a highly valuable nutrient, providing concentrated calories and adding suspension and viscosity while being neutral in flavor,” explains Kirschenbaum.
The formulations comprise the calories, protein, fat, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients mandated for a full-nutrition meal without added sugar and with very low sodium. “Even a small serving packs a wealth of nutrition and calories, as well as naturally occurring antioxidants,” she adds.
Not just protein powder
Levana Nourishments plant-based portfolio is sugar-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, non-GMO, NFC-certified natural, and certified kosher. The nutritional shakes come in vanilla bean, mixed berry and cocoa-coffee flavors.
“It’s proven to be perfect for feeding people for whom the relationship with food has been irrevocably damaged. The texture and flavor of the base recipe are very unobtrusive. It will absorb whatever flavor it is paired with.” The nutritional powder also caters to those who are dairy intolerant or pursuing a more plant-based lifestyle,” says Kirschenbaum.
According to Regenstein, a complete nutrition analysis was performed by Laboratory Corporation of America, allowing Levana’s formula to be classified as a true meal replacement to counter the effects of malnutrition without interfering with digestive regularity.
“The ingredients were scrupulously selected as pure, wholesome ingredients naturally charged with these desired properties. They work together synergistically to restore a person’s nutritional equilibrium,” explains Regenstein.
The formula underwent successful trials under the supervision of a senior dietitian from the Presbyterian Weill Cornell medical center under the guidance of senior dietitian Jackie Topol, MS, RDN, before it was finalized into a ready-to-market product suitable for parenteral feeding as well as conventional feeding.
Meanwhile, the US market for meal replacements is open to new protein shakes and smoothies that offer nutritional benefits with high protein, fiber and vitamin content.
By Inga de Jong
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.
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