Plant-based egg project rated 'Outstanding' by Innovate UK
The Knowledge Transfer Partnership with UK brand THIS™ applied the latest food science and plant proteins technologies to crack the plant-based egg market.
Dr Alan Hernandez Alvarez and Professor Brent Murray from the School of Food Science and Nutrition led the participation in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with THIS™, the fastest-growing plant-based meat brand in the UK, for the development of a plant-based egg replacer using innovative technologies and food-plant protein chemistry. The project was rated ‘Outstanding’ by Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency.
The UK egg market is worth £865 million ($1.1 billion) and the country has a total of 39 million commercial egg-laying hens*, so the project presented a real opportunity for the plant-based egg market.
Furthermore, there is an increasing trend to reduce our meat, dairy and egg intake, driven by environmental concerns, ethics, animal welfare and personal health.
The main challenge of this KTP project was to mimic the techno-functional properties of eggs, as existing plant products do not replicate the way eggs behave in cooking. Egg proteins are remarkably flexible, so challenges included simulating scrambled eggs in flavour and texture, recreating leavening properties for baking and also emulsifying.
Dr Alvarez said, “The main drivers in food innovation are the consumers who want to understand if the food they are eating provides benefits and is sustainable and friendly for the environment.”
Plant-based eggs offer a healthy, cruelty-free, environmentally friendly and nutritious alternative, being “allergen-free”, “cholesterol-free” and “clean label”. This project provided not only scientific knowledge and key innovation but also an excellent opportunity to learn more about the pressures and constraints on small medium enterprises (SMEs) within the UK.
Having these types of links between academia and companies provides more opportunities to develop science with a higher reach.
Explaining the benefits of the partnership, Dr Alvarez said, “Having these types of links between academia and companies provides more opportunities to develop science with a higher reach. With the use of KTPs, we can transform science into real impact for the population.”
The project helped the researchers to enhance our teaching quality by incorporating these real-world examples and problems into taught modules by contributing to the research-led teaching philosophy at Leeds and the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
*UK Government. (2020). United Kingdom Egg Statistics – Quarter 2, 2020.