Firing up the barbecue for vegans
Experts at Loryma have developed a variety of application concepts that exploit the functionality of wheat texturates and binding agents to help manufacturers deliver grill-friendly meat alternatives.
Lighting the barbecue is a familiar and often social event for many people. And, for the increasing number of consumers who want to see meat-free alternatives on the grill, there is now a growing selection of delicacies. “Flexitarians in particular can be quite demanding,” says Norbert Klein, Head of Product Development at Loryma: “They want to consume less meat but, at the same time, they want a high-quality eating experience. Barbecuing is associated with positive memories and emotions. Therefore, giving up meat should not feel like giving up pleasure.” Barbecues traditionally comprise a wide range of foods and dishes that cater to a broad array of preferences and cultures. And although, historically, it’s normally been a meat fest, change is afoot. Even if you’ve opted out of eating meat, for the short- or long-term, there is still a multitude of different products and flavourings to tempt your taste buds. As with all substitute products, Loryma understands that an authentic mouthfeel and taste is crucial — especially for flexitarians who supplement their diet with vegan products (but still know meat products very well). According to Statista, sales of meat alternatives will continue on an upward trend and reach a value of approximately $140 billion by 2030, with flexitarians being the driving force. To convince them, the choice of a vegetable base is essential. As such, ingredient specialist Loryma has developed combinations of wheat ingredients that can be used to create vegan versions of grilled classics such as steaks, sausages, burger patties and fish fillets, as well as new creations and variations.
Bringing fresh thinking to market
For reasons of sustainability alone, wheat is a future-facing raw material. It scores well in terms of multifunctionality and regionality as almost 99% of each grain can be recycled through the production of co-products, thus ensuring a resource-saving approach to the environment. From a food technology perspective, wheat offers technical advantages as a basis for meat alternatives: extruded wheat gluten forms fibres that, compared with soy or pea protein, have a higher elasticity and therefore ideally replicate the feel and texture of meat. Loryma has been concentrating on this raw material for more than 40 years. Not only is the company active as a classic supplier to the food industry, it’s also constantly developing new application concepts in its own technical centre on the basis of its extensive ingredients portfolio. In terms of taste, which plays an important role for consumers, there are no restrictions. The basis for “grillable” meat alternatives is the use of extruded wheat proteins and wheat-based binding components, which are neutral in taste and smell. This gives manufacturers the opportunity to flavour or aromatise their product according to their own ideas. In this way, the production of various meatless sausage specialities such as chipolata or a merguez is also possible — using the same meat processing equipment. The various wheat-based ingredients from the Loryma portfolio work together to ensure easy handling, optimal texture, appearance and binding. Both the textured wheat proteins of the Lory® Tex range and the functional wheat-based binding system Lory® Bind are odourless and tasteless. For manufacturers, this is the ideal premise for individual seasoning.
Getting the look, feel and taste right
Extruded ingredients have emerged in recent years as a key element in the production of meat substitutes. Extrusion describes a process in which a raw material — in the form of cereal flour, for example — is formed using heat and pressure from screw conveyors and forced through a die. The extrudate that emerges is then cut to the desired length. The result is a product with unparalleled properties that can be further enhanced by composition and gluten content. And, something that’s especially important for the meat alternative market, a fibre structure develops when hydrated that’s disconcertingly similar to that of meat. Whether it’s replicating muscle meat or ground mince, the great advantage of the extrusion process is its flexibility. From both a design and desired properties perspective, the possibilities are manifold. For instance, long, light strips that mimic chicken breast can be produced and subsequently marinated or, using a special coating system, given a vegan “chicken skin” that even becomes crispy when grilled. And, as well as uncoloured wheat textures, darker versions are also available; light brown, coloured and treated with a natural malt extract, “cooked pork” and sugar caramel coloured versions of “cooked beef” are also “on the menu.” For other vegan applications, smaller extrudates may be more suitable; extruded granulates, for example, are suitable for fine white or coarse sausages. As a dry product, the texturates can be transported unrefrigerated, easily stored and individually rehydrated. Furthermore, thanks to the addition of water, there is also additional scope to enhance the texture even more; the degree of hydration determines the bite strength. For a typical American “home-style” burger patty, for instance, not only can different shapes and sizes be combined, but also firmer ones with softer ones. An authentic replica of the original animal product is achieved by combining the texturates with the appropriate functional mixture of wheat gluten and starches. The choice of binding system depends on the specific processing procedures being used and the desired product properties. The correct binding of the meat and its adhesion to, say, a sausage casing are essential quality characteristics. The typical mouthfeel is created by the vegan casing and by the vegetable sausage meat ingredients bonding optimally with each other. The bond is irreversible, so that even when packaged in a vacuum or the heat applied during preparation have no negative influence.
Beyond the white meat
To mention an example, one of the latest innovations from ingredient specialist Loryma is a combination of wheat-based components for a vegan version of chicken thighs, which perfectly replicates this classic dish in both appearance and texture. The creation of an authentic, vegetable “chicken skin,” as described previously, has been achieved with the help of a specially developed coating system and a two-step-process. First, the vegan chicken meat is replicated using long chunky texturates and a corresponding binder, which is then formed into the shape of the aforementioned chicken leg. After that, a functional mixture of wheat proteins, starches and gelling agent (Lory® Stab) creates an elastic, irreversible, thin surface coating. It’s applied as a flowable oil-in-water emulsion by means of conventional coating technology to the shaped imitation meat. By frying, deep-frying or grilling, the outer shell becomes crispy while the inside remains juicy and tender. Klein says: “Recreating crispy chicken skin with purely vegetable ingredients was a real challenge; yet, we are more than satisfied with the final concept. It’s perfect for everyone who wants to give up meat … but not this classic treat.”
Perhaps not as popular as burgers and sausages on the barbecue, Loryma is also working on vegan fish alternatives. Not yet as widespread as meat alternatives, the need for industry action is, however, growing. In the long-term, owing to factors such as population growth, overfishing and the increasing demand for macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids, fish may well be in short supply in the future. Klein comments: “Thankfully, even segmented fish muscle meat can be imitated with the help of a specially adapted mixture of wheat proteins and starches. The modularity of our concept provides sensory flexibility in terms of taste, colour and texture, which means we can produce vegan white fish meat, such as halibut and cod, salmon fillets and even tuna.” “From bite-sized pieces to fillets, the size and shape of our products is also very flexible. To imitate the rather firm flesh of tuna, for example, extruded wheat proteins from the Lory® Tex range can be incorporated. Wheat-based fish applications can easily be enriched with vital substances, such as omega-3-rich oils from microalgae. And although high-quality proteins are a natural part of wheat’s make-up, the content can be further increased by adding our Lory® protein component.”
Taking a closer look at the label
Increasingly, consumers are taking the ingredient list of any product into account when shopping, and meat alternatives are always under scrutiny in this regard. When the trend emerged and momentum started to gather, long lists of chemical-sounding contents and additives that consumers didn’t like the look or sound of were the order of the day. Nowadays, as a result of progressive development work, these are no longer necessary. Wheat ingredients can be declared as such and clean-label products are also possible. Furthermore, if desired, a high-protein positioning is within the realms of possibility, which can be achieved with the help of additional components such as hydrolysed wheat protein. To meet the needs of consumers who want to prepare their own vegan meat alternatives at home, Loryma has developed a new application concept. For this purpose, the company has designed special wheat-based premixes that form an authentic texture in the end product after the addition of water. They provide numerous opportunities for manufacturers to respond to the trend for vegan meat alternatives with quick and fail-safe convenience products. The clean label and optimised nutritional values are particularly appealing for a health-conscious target group and open up many creative culinary possibilities. The premixes are the ideal starting point for the creation of numerous vegan applications, from plant-based burger patties to cevapcici, breaded cutlets and nuggets. Preparation is simple: the consumer only needs a bowl to combine the premix with water. The resulting mixture can then be kneaded and shaped into the desired form. Fresh ingredients such as diced vegetables or herbs can also be added if desired.
Looking to the future
With a view to the growing world population, plant proteins will play an important role in the future. Our resources are limited, and in this awareness, more sustainable foods are enjoying great popularity. Loryma processes only EU wheat, which minimises both transport emissions and the risk of supply bottlenecks. The use of wheat-based ingredients is another step towards future- oriented end products that encourage consumers to make repeat purchases at the veggie barbecue counter. Klein concludes: “Our do-it-yourself solution addresses a target group that is keen on creative cooking and wants to know all about the ingredients involved. With our product, we help manufacturers to meet the high demands of conscious consumers who want clean label, optimised nutritional values, along with creative freedom in preparation and, of course, a convincing mouthfeel.” “Having been working with wheat as a natural raw material for more than 160 years, the value of sustainable ingredients is nothing new to us at the Crespel & Deiters Group. However, it’s great to see how the industry has changed in the last decade as a result of consumer demand. Let’s continue to develop more natural and responsibly sourced meat alternative solutions for now and the future!”
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