Science

Changing the Game for Vegan Analogs: Study Explores Effects of Iron Fortification in Mycoprotein Products Without Egg Whites

In the ever-evolving landscape of food industry innovations, the spotlight is now on the development of meat alternatives that provide consumers with a sustainable option and meet the nutritional needs of comparable animal proteins.

A recent study by Professor Brent Murray from the University of Leeds, funded by Quorn Foods, investigated the effects of iron fortification in mycoprotein products developed with potato protein instead of egg whites.

Egg whites are incorporated into mycoprotein products as functional ingredients and binders to create appealing textures. However, the growing demand for plant-based meat alternatives and egg allergenicity are driving the replacement of egg white proteins with plant proteins. 

In a related research about the interactions between fungal hyphae and egg white protein the scientists found that that potato proteins offer high solubility and viscoelastic properties comparable to ovalbumin, making it a good replacer for commercial fungi-based meat analogs.

Varios textures of mycoprotein meat made with potato protein and Iron salts
© Global Food and Environment Institute, University of Leeds

Why fortify mycoprotein products?

Mycoprotein has been commercially used for over four decades to develop meat and fish analogs. Nevertheless, while mycoprotein is rich in high-quality proteins, it lacks essential micronutrients like iron and vitamin B12 like in, for example, beef and other meats. 

To address this nutritional gap, Professor Murray and his team looked into the effects of adding ferric salt fortification (iron) to the vegan formulation since these salts have been shown to impact the textural properties of final products.

To do so, they explored different fortification strategies with sodium chloride (NaCl) and calcium chloride (CaCl2) alongside ferric salt fortification to measure their effects on the physical, microstructural, and rheological properties of the potato-mycoprotein combination.

The study also looked at the effect of various salts on gel strength, cohesiveness, water-holding capacity, emulsification, viscosity, foaming capacity, and stability in mycoprotein blended with potato protein. The aim was to provide a foundation for understanding how these key ingredients behave when adding fortifying salts.

© Quorn

Delivering on consumer needs

While the study focused on a simplified model of mycoprotein and potato protein without considering other flavor or nutrient additions or further processing effects, it sheds light on potential fortification strategies for improving the nutritional content and overall quality of mycoprotein alternatives. 

The researchers concluded that when creating products with this vegan formulation, producers should pay attention to the pH levels and calcium content to add iron supplements without significantly impacting the texture of products. Balancing these factors can create nutritionally balanced analogs with the desired texture and taste.

When asked about the strategy to retain eggs in some products and any future plans to veganise the entire range, Marco Bertacca, CEO of Quorn Foods, responded in a recent interview with vegconomist: “We are always evolving our product development strategy in line with consumer demands, but it’s so important to us that we keep up the high quality of our products to get the highest number of people eating less meat. We work hard to strike a balance between maintaining great taste, a diverse product range, and delivering on all shopper needs.”

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