SusProFood: Optimising development of SUStainable functional fibre-rich FOODs fortified with plant PROteins


The global market for plant-based foods with considerably low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is expected to considerably increase to £13 billion by 2027, largely fuelled by the growing public awareness for environmental sustainability and contributing to the climate crisis, health concerns with red meat consumption, animal welfare considerations and rise in veganism and flexitarian diets.

There is an immense interest by food industries thus to incorporate sustainable plant proteins into their fibre-rich convenience foods such as smoothies, breakfast pots, soups, gravies in order to improve the wellness of these regularly consumed accessible products, such as providing them with “fuller for longer” benefits, as well as fulfilling the ambitions to reach Net Zero targets by 2050. However, addition of plant proteins comes with severe technological challenges of unacceptable “dry”, “non-juicy” mouthfeel that are failing to meet consumer expectations and remain as a major obstacle for adoption of plant-based foods by consumers in their daily diets.

Often ultra-formulation with calorie-dense additives such as saturated and trans fat as well as well high quantities of salts and sugar are used to make plant foods palatable, which make them unhealthy, expensive and unsustainable. In addition to these techno-commercial challenges, the interaction of plant proteins with fibres might reduce the inherent beneficial gut function effects of the fibre and this remains as one the greatest source of uncertainty in designing healthy, plant protein-bio-fortified fibre rich foods. This feasibility project “SusProFood” combining complementary strengths of academia, small and large scale industry aims to optimise and validate a ground breaking “microgel-based” technology developed at University of Leeds without using any chemical additive conferring outstanding lubricity and hydration properties to plant proteins to address these techno-sensorial issues. Due to such physical modification, this also limit binding with fibres thus synergistically allowing the colonic fermentation of dietary fibres by gut bacteria effectively, supporting the inherent metabolic benefits of consuming fibre-rich foods.

Together with industrial partners (SPG Innovation, SME and Innocent Drinks, large company in the UK), we will optimize and validate the modification of currently used in-process variables such as heat, ions, shear, enzymes without adding any new energy-intensive resources. The performance of the new eco-friendly formulation and processing of plant protein-rich fibrous foods developed in developmental kitchens to large pilot scale across multiple food formats will be characterized through a combination of uniquely designed instrumental toolkits (3D tongue-like surface, MiniGut model with human faeces), human sensory trials and consumer studies to quantify improved mouthfeel and gut function. These unique food design strategies will generate new formulation and processing routes to revolutionize the creation of next generation of pleasurable, plant protein-fortified fibre rich foods that are vital for a healthy population and contribute to a sustainable one health  planet to achieve the ambition of Net Zero.

Project website