GoodMills Innovation: “Bringing to the Market Properties That Have Never Before Been Seen in a Pea-Based Texturate”

The market is hungry for ingredients that can elevate the plant-based protein experience, and as a high-quality, sustainable protein source, pea is an obvious candidate. However, transforming this raw material into consumer-friendly products that deliver on taste, texture and nutritional value is a feat that few companies have achieved.

One of the pioneers in this space is GoodMills Innovation, whose VITATEX® range of pea texturates is helping food manufacturers to harness the power of peas. We caught up with Antje Dittrich, the company’s Key Account & Application Manager Plant-Based Proteins, to talk about current challenges and advancements in pea texturates.

Can you explain the latest advancements GoodMills Innovation has made in pea texturates?
VITATEX® Pea Flakes M SVP Pro is the latest addition to our portfolio, bringing to the market properties that have never before been seen in a pea-based texturate. It has a unique fibrous structure which enables its use in applications that call for long fibers, such as plant-based canned tuna or chicken-less nuggets.

It also has a pleasant elastic bite and absorbs and releases water well, resulting in a succulent end product. A real all-purpose, VITATEX® Pea Flakes M SVP Pro can be easily shredded; using a cutter process, for example, the texturate can be made into minced products such as balls and patties, too.

Vegan nuggets made by GoodMills Innovation
© GoodMills Innovation

What sets your pea-based products apart in terms of texture, taste, and functionality?
The versatility of VITATEX® Pea Flakes M SVP in terms of the different textures that can be created is a major advantage, and this stems from its outstanding water absorption capacity and ability to stand up to shearing. It can simply be hydrated to produce large pieces or sheared apart to create individual layers. Adjusting the degree of shredding will also yield different textural profiles.

Developing customized plant-based products can be complex. What are the biggest challenges you face in this process, and how does GoodMills Innovation address these challenges?
There is a limit to what can be achieved texturally and taste-wise with the use of a single plant-based texturate. The beauty of VITATEX® texturates is that they can be blended with one another to create the desired sensory profile. For example, VITATEX® Pea Flakes M SVP Pro can be combined with wheat texturates from the VITATEX® range to create a different textural experience. Blending the pea texturate with a wheat texturate will result in a finer, softer texture than using pea texturate on its own.

Another approach might be to combine our original pea texturate VITATEX® Pea Flakes M SVP with VITATEX® Pea Flakes M SVP Pro to produce pea patties with a juicier texture. The fact that we can blend different texturates with one another and adjust the degree of shredding means that there is a huge array of application possibilities beyond the usual balls and schnitzels.

How do you balance the technical aspects of product development with the evolving preferences of your customers in different markets?
The key is understanding the customer’s process options and downstream requirements, such as how the product is going to be packaged, what shelf-life it needs to have, whether it will be heated by the consumer, and what heating methods it will be subjected to. A food service customer might want a product that isn’t pre-cooked, for example, which can present challenges for stability, whilst for a product destined for the supermarket, shelf life and packaging requirements might be top considerations.

Schnitzel  made by GoodMills Innovation
© GoodMills Innovation

We have extensive expertise in the texturising business and in application manufacturing, which is extremely valuable when it comes to understanding our customers’ processes, but communication is also essential here. Working with customers to build a detailed picture of available technologies and equipment, as well as limitations and bottlenecks, means we can develop products that work for them.

Is their process set up in such a way that they can soak the texturate in water overnight? Can water and texturate be put directly into the cutter? What heating options are there? These are just some of the questions we might ask. Once we know what parameters we are working to we can adjust the texturate and binding systems accordingly. We can also replicate the process on a small scale, in a test kitchen, to identify any potential issues before scaling up.

Food manufacturers in every geographical market and sector are working to ever tighter timescales, driven by economics and pressure from their customers. Therefore, we have to balance the need for a thorough development process with a need for speed. We are always available for our customers, we respond quickly to their requests, and are always ready to offer advice and assistance. After all, they don’t want to wait two weeks for some samples. It is all about speed, availability, delivery and readiness to help.

The plant-based ingredients market is becoming increasingly competitive. What unique strategies does GoodMills Innovation employ to differentiate itself from other players in the industry?
Our outstanding customer service and our commitment to delivering products that are clean label, sustainable and regional are our key differentiators. In addition, in the context of the supply security issues of the last few years, our ability to guarantee availability – bolstered by our recent investment in new production capacity for our VITATEX® ingredient portfolio – is valued by our customers more than ever before.

GoodMills Innovation burger
© GoodMills Innovation

Looking towards the future, what new areas or technologies is GoodMills Innovation exploring to enhance its offerings in the plant-based sector? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you can share with us?
As a medium-sized company, we have the agility to adapt to the changing demands of the market. We are always looking to establish strategic partnerships, for example, with flavour houses, in order to benefit from the synergies that result from sharing expertise, such as faster development. We also see collaboration with institutes and universities and participation in external research projects as essential to our development. We are currently working with Wageningen University on a project to better understand the influence factors on the sensory quality of meat analogues and to generate insights that we can then incorporate into application development.

Whilst pea texturates are one of our focus products, we are working on exciting developments in other texturate areas. In particular, we are investigating the potential that exists in our own value chain; we have access to some interesting raw materials through our sister company Müllers Mühle, particularly in the pulses sector.

Our Hamburg facility is state of the art, and we have recently invested in additional production capacity, including the latest extrusion technology. This will enable us to keep pace with growing market demand, and ensure we are in a strong position to take embrace future opportunities that arise in plant-based texturates.

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