Tuning plant protein functionality: from extraction to application

NIZO created new opportunities with green pea proteins.

Which plant proteins are suitable for mass production, in taste, functionality and profitability? This question is critical, as the world population is expected to grow above 9 billion people in 2050 and the demand for high nutritional foods and proteins will increase. Common issues with commercial plant proteins are their low solubility and off-taste. NIZO studied these issues and created new opportunities with green pea proteins.

Understanding the behaviour of plant proteins & solving solubility issues

To find a profitable way of producing (extracting and drying) plant proteins, it is crucial to understand their behaviour. The problem with many commercial plant protein ingredients is that often they exhibit a low solubility. NIZO has studied -and solved- this issue in protein extraction from green peas (Pisum sativa).

Research on pea proteins

Crucial in the development of the extraction process was the possibility for up-scaling to pilot and industrial scale. Based on NIZO expertise, the spray-drying conditions were optimized for the time-temperature conditions resulting in highly functional plant protein powder, both in terms of powder characteristics and solubility. Pea protein isolates with a protein on dry matter content of over 90% were obtained.

The results

The results showed:

  • Stable functionalities. The ‘native’ state of the protein is preserved after spray-drying as can be seen from the enthalpy values, which are very similar to the one obtained after freeze-drying.
  • Better solubility. The solubility of the protein powders (even after 6 months storage at ambient temperature) remained high (>90% of the total amount of proteins).
  • Improved taste. The optimised extraction and drying process did not only affect the degree of denaturation and solubility of the pea protein powder, but also had a remarkable positive impact on the flavour/taste profile.