Bridging the protein gap sustainably
by Alexandra Londoño Baderschneider, Strategic Business Development Manager, Bühler, Switzerland
Healthy food is currently the major consumer megatrend. But what exactly do consumers seek in this claim? It encompasses various needs including weight control, enforcing cardiovascular and digestive health or organic and allergen-free products. But also the perceived benefit of protein-rich food has increased in recent years. With good reason: Protein is essential to life. Without this macronutrient - the body cannot function properly.
The name protein comes from the Greek word 'proteos', which means primary or first place. According to the Food and Agriculture organisation (FAO), proteins make up about 17 percent of the mass of the average person. They are necessary in many ways for our health, especially for growth and for maintenance and repair of the body.
This makes it essential for children and adults alike. Proteins are needed to produce metabolic and digestive enzymes and they are a vital component of hormones such as insulin. For all the above reasons, it is highly important to assure protein security. However, considering that by 2050 the projected world population will rise above nine billion people, 'traditional' protein from animal sources (meat, fish and dairy products) is not sustainable. Vegetable protein sources need to fill this gap.
Pulses are legumes with dry edible seeds. They include lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas. On average, one cup of pulses contains more than twice the protein of one cup of corn or rice. Pulses are gluten free, low in fat and rich in fibre; therefore, helping to improve digestion and prevent heart disease.
As pulses have been an essential part of several regions' diets for centuries, pulses are readily available. Annually, about 80 million tons of pulses are harvested with 65 percent destined to go to food applications. With the growing interest of the food industry in including pulses as ingredients in breads, snacks, beverages and meat products, the amount of food destination is increasing at more than four percent yearly. And this is good because it is sustainable. Pulse crops require low energy to grow and increase soil fertility.
There are more than 20 pulses varieties and the processing requirements for all are diverse and complex. Bühler has been able to close the gap in the value chain – helping processors around the world to adopt hygienic, sustainable and profitable methods to process pulses.
Bühler provides technology for basic pulses processing from efficient cleaning, sorting, de-hulling, splitting to grinding. Integrated processing solutions such as roasting, extrusion or texturing of protein-rich pulse flours into textured vegetable protein (TVP) products make Bühler the partner of choice for pulse processors around the globe.
Pulses will be essential to ensure sustainable protein security. Pioneering processing technology will allow exploiting the opportunities of pulses as a sustainable protein source. And with consumers seeking healthy, convenient and tasty food products, the future of pulses looks very promising.