Development of plant-based egg project rated 'Outstanding' by Innovate UK
Knowledge Transfer Partnership with UK brand THIS™ applies latest food science and plant proteins technologies to crack 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 £865million ($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, without cutting it out entirely, driven by environmental concerns, ethics and animal welfare, and personal health.
The main challenge of this KTP project was to “mimic” the techno functional properties of eggs, as plant proteins do not replicate the way eggs behave in cooking. Egg proteins are remarkably flexible and so challenges include simulating scrambled egg in flavour and texture, and recreating the same leavening properties in baking for preparing a cake and emulsifying.
Dr Alvarez said, “The main drivers in food innovation is the consumers who want to understand if the food they are eating provide benefits and are sustanable 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 as well an excellent opportunity to learn more about the pressures and constraints acting on 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 benfits 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 really 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, i.e., contributing to the research-led teaching philosophy at Leeds and contributes to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).