06.10.2022 - Bioeconomy, Food processing & retail

Researching legumes as alternative to dairy

Scientists from the Faculty of Food Technology at the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LBTU), together with partners, have started to research the processing of legumes with maximum efficiency and minimum nutrient loss, creating alternatives to dairy products. The need for plant-based products is driven by growing demand for specialised products as well as the move towards the European Green Deal.

The project will involve the Faculty of Food Technology of LBTU, AS Tukuma piens, the Institute of Agroresources and Economics, the Association of Agricultural Incorporated Companies, ZS Zutiņi, ZS Kotiņi and SIA Saldus Agro. Researchers will analyse the availability, yield, chemical composition, nutritional value, contamination, and technological properties of Latvian legumes with the aim of developing dairy analogues to meet consumer demand for alternative products with a balanced nutritional value.

Although Latvia has great potential for local producers to develop plant-based products, most are currently imported. Imported products are mainly made from oats, buckwheat, rice, nuts, and soya, and the major drawbacks are that the raw materials are not locally sourced and are not rich in protein. Consumers are also concerned about the presence of genetically modified organisms (soya). Produce made in Latvia would not only broaden the available range but also be able to provide consumers with the necessary raw materials. Moreover, legumes are one of the products that are rich in vegetable protein, fibre, and carbohydrates.

Creating innovative products

The project will help to develop new technologies for the production of innovative food products, process legumes into protein-rich products, improve the financial performance of producers, reduce the use of nitrogen fertilisers and their negative impact on the environment, and contribute to increasing soil fertility.

“The project promotes sustainable cooperation in the agricultural production and processing sectors and addresses the practical needs of these sectors to create added value in agricultural production by using local raw materials for the development of economically viable agricultural production systems, following the principles of sustainable development,” says Jeļena Zagorska, lead researcher at the LBTU Faculty of Food Technology.

She explains that in agriculture, legumes are used to improve the soil by enriching it with nitrogen. As one of the main problems is the full use of these legumes due to limited processing, new technologies will allow to improve and develop this process, as well as to create innovative products, expanding the range, meeting the needs of different consumers – vegetarians, vegans, people with health problems and others – for protein products. “Processing legumes into food products will also diversify agricultural production,” adds Zagorska.

Potential to improve economic performance

To realise the production and analysis of several products, the farms involved in the project will provide researchers with the necessary peas and beans. Under the supervision of the lead researcher Zagorska, several tasks will be solved: evaluation of legumes that can be used as raw material alternatives for dairy products, improvement of functional properties of the products, including changing ingredients using locally sourced raw materials, improvement of technical parameters by studying the effect of different hydrolysis parameters on the product quality, including sensory properties. Research data on the legumes used, hydrolysis conditions, pH and enzyme effects on the process, product quality and outcome will also be provided, allowing the validation and improvement of legume-based products.

“The legume-based product technology has the potential to improve the economic performance of both agricultural primary producer farms, by saving on nitrogen fertiliser, and the processing sector, by increasing the income of the food business through the production of a specialised product with added value,” says Zagorska.

Farm representatives will work with specialists from the Institute of Agroresources and Economics to assess the yield and quality of different legume varieties and their suitability to produce innovative food products.

By-products also to be developed

The project will conclude with the evaluation of peas and beans as potential raw materials for the production of dairy alternatives and the development and validation of technologies for beverages, yoghurt, fresh cheese, and by-products under production conditions.

The project “Potential of using legumes for the production of alternative dairy products” is implemented under the national and European Union support programme “Support for the implementation of the European Innovation Partnership on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability working group projects”. It is supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Support Service. The project will run until summer 2025. The total funding is 387.3 thousand euros.

Source: labsoflatvia.com

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