Meat- and Fish Alternatives

Alpha Foods Unleashes the Power of HME Technology to Make the “Most-Meat Like” Plant-Based Chicken Strips

California-based Alpha Foods, a popular plant-based brand known for its frozen burritos, wraps, tamales, and nuggets,  launched plant-based Homestyle Chik’n Strips last year to cater to consumers from vegans to flexitarians to meat lovers.

The company, now part of the The LIVEKINDLY Collective, says that its plant-based chicken strips shred, taste, and cook just like chicken and describes them as the “most meat-like” plant-based chicken. 

To satisfy consumer demands for a plant-based product that provides a meat-like eating experience, the company leverages High Moisture Extrusion (HME) technology but uses a unique processing approach.  

Alpha Foods explains that its HME method mixes and cooks soy and wheat in an extruder at specific temperatures. Through this process, the plant proteins melt and fold into strands that resemble the fibers responsible for the texture, juiciness, and mouthfeel found in chicken products. Concurrently, it uses high-pressure and high-heat extrusion to control the moisture and ensure a juicy and tender texture.

Alpha Foods chicken pack shot
© Alpha Foods

High protein and fewer ingredients

Moreover, Alpha Foods claims that besides delivering a superior taste and texture, its HME products contain fewer ingredients and offer higher protein content, 18 grams per serving (double that of competitors), and lower sodium levels, targeting health-conscious consumers.  

In addition, the company’s HME approach provides versatility in shaping, allowing it to cut its chicken into various shapes and sizes, such as strips and squares.

Although only the plant-based chicken strips are currently using the HME technology, Alpha Foods has announced plans to roll out this production method for its core products in the coming months to enhance the eating experience for its consumers.

Alpha Foods enjoys a strong brand presence in the US. Its products are available at 11,000 retail locations, including Costco, Kroger, Whole Foods, Safeway, H-E-B, Albertson’s, Sprouts, Sam’s Club, and other stores nationwide. Additionally, Alpha Foods products are served through various foodservice channels, including the military, colleges, and universities.

Alpha Foods plant-based chicken with green peppers on an iron pan.
Image courtesy of Alpha Foods.

HME fuels innovation

According to IFF’s Nourish business, HME currently accounts for approximately 20% of global plant-based meat products and is expected to grow by double digits by 2030 as more producers worldwide turn to this process.

While various technologies are available for producing structured plant proteins, HME allows plant-based food manufacturers to modify different parameters according to their product design easily. This flexibility allows for innovations in plant-based meat, such as Alpha Foods’ plant-based chicken strips. 

However, Alpha Foods is still among the few brands using it to make plant-based chicken. Last month, the IFF announced new high-moisture extrusion technology systems (manufactured by the global leader Coperion) to support manufacturers in creating fibrous, plant-based whole cuts and expand the use of the technology.

Alpha Foods founder and CEO Cole Orobetz shared in an interview with vegconomist: “The integration of HME fuels innovation, allowing us to create even more crave-worthy and nutritious plant-based options in different formats and flavors. By leveraging HME, we aim to offer more consumers plant-based options with elevated taste and texture with uncompromising nutrition just like its animal counterpart.”

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