Processed soybeans have the nutritional edge, flag Unilever and Wageningen University
13 Oct 2022 --- Scientists from Unilever and Wageningen University, Netherlands, have found that processed soybeans have a slightly better nutritional profile than their mother ingredient, soybeans. Unilever highlights how this is contrary to the views held by many in the food industry that processed soybeans are not as valuable as a source of protein.
This reveal is important since soybeans, in their natural form, can’t be added to a plant-based chicken chunk or an ice cream, and must undergo processing first – soaking, heating and dehulling.
“For the first time, a study comprehensively finds that the protein quality of soy used in our plant-based foods is not compromised during processing, contrary to misconceptions. In fact, processing soy slightly increases the protein’s nutritional quality,” says Amelia Jarman, future health and wellness science and technology director at Unilever.
Soy delivers more protein per hectare than any other major crop as it contains 38 g of protein per 100 g, triple the nutritional protein content of an egg.
Processed soybeans outscore raw product
In order to compare processed soybeans to their natural ingredient, researchers used digestibility indispensable amino acid scores (DIAAS). This measurement is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization standard measure. The higher the score, the better the protein fulfills the body’s needs and requirements.
“A score of 75 or above is considered good,” flags Unilever.
“Analysis of the data showed different protein quality scores between soy product groups, but the DIAAS score for soy protein concentrate – the most commonly used in food such as plant-based meat from The Vegetarian Butcher – was 88, which is slightly higher than the initial soybean (which scores 85),” explain the researchers.
“Given the rising demand from environmentally conscious consumers looking to transition away from meat but still looking for nutritious, high-quality food, this research is very exciting as it proves that meat-free alternatives actually do fulfill our bodies’ protein requirements,” Jarman underscores.
Turning to plant-based
Unilever states that the world cannot sustainably feed itself, affirming that there is a “pressing need for meat and dairy alternatives,” with the company planning to reach €1 billion (US$970 million) in annual sales in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives by 2025-2027.
“Despite this reshaping of the food landscape, concern about the nutritional quality of plant-based alternatives and negative views about the impact of processing can be a blocker for people making the change,” flags Unilever.
The good news about processed soybeans nutritional better-than-expected performance comes after some mixed months for the plant-based sector.
Notably, meat titan JBS is abandoning its plant-based business in the US just two years after entering the alternative meat market in the country with Planterra Foods and its OZO brand.
Meanwhile, Beyond Meat is burning through its cash stockpiles after a net income loss of US$97 million in the year's first quarter. Similarly, through the first months of 2022, the company had a negative free cash flow of US$278 million.
Also, Canadian Maple Leaf Foods announced this August it is reducing 25% of its Greenleaf Food plant-based protein division. This comes after its revenue dropping 18% year over year, according to its Q2 results.
In Europe, plant-based is faring better, as sales of plant-based increased during the UK’s “Veguanary,” and New Product Development (NPD) launches booming in Europe after the pandemic, doubling NPD launches in Q1-22 compared to 2019, remaining strong in Q2 with over two-thirds more launches, according to Innova Markets Insight.
“People are increasingly turning to plant-based diets for all sorts of reasons, in particular to improve their health and reduce their greenhouse gas footprint,” concludes Unilever.
By Marc Cervera
This feature is provided by NutritionInsight’s sister website, FoodIngredientsFirst.
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