Plant-Based Protein for the People

Garden beans While plant-based proteins have been part of humanity’s diet for centuries, it wasn’t until the advent of the original textured vegetable protein (TVP) in the 1960s that it started becoming a viable replacement for animal-based protein sources in more mainstream diets. The first commercially available plant-based proteins would not be mistaken for animal-based protein sources and were largely of interest only to vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians.

Things have changed dramatically in the plant-based protein sector, especially in the last ten years. Meat-substitutes that looked, smelled, felt, and tasted similar to meat swept the market, and in an age where consumers are becoming more and more informed and interested in sustainability and stewardship of the planet, plant-based protein has risen as a viable alternative for about one in four consumers, those who consider themselves flexitarians.

A flexitarian’s diet is one that flexes to accommodate their values, often without rigorously banning entire categories of food. One focused on sustainability and humane farming practices, for example, might choose to replace beef with an Impossible burger once a week, to lower their personal impact on the industry. For these flexitarians, plant-based proteins are held to a higher scrutiny. Many factors go into a food decision, and a flexitarian who still drinks milk is less likely to choose a more expensive and less pleasant plant-based substitute solely for the sustainability factor. Plant-based proteins must be at least roughly equivalent to their animal-based counterparts to find traction among the flexitarian crowd.

Though difficult, this is not impossible. There have been many advances in plant-based protein technology in recent years, so much so, in fact, that experts predict we are only just beginning to see the plant-based possibilities. From improving solubility and taste to finding ways to recover protein from “spent” sources such as barley already used for brewing, what manufacturers can do with plants is growing in leaps and bounds year over year.

828 Series Combustion AnalyzerHowever, at the base of it all, the nutritional value is still what matters. The amount of protein that can be obtained from food with these plant-based sources is a vital factor to consider when developing new products, and that’s why a rapid and reliable protein determinator like the FP828 still holds a place of prime importance in the development process.

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