June 20, 2022 — Herba Ingredients is using the bean for its latest project involving a Dutch consortium of farmer organizations and cooperatives developing raw materials from farm to fork.
Using a protein extrusion process, Herba has converted the ingredient for use in a range of meat-like products across the Netherlands, which have been available since February.
The consortium partners are farmers’ organizations and cooperatives; ZLTO, CZAV and Agrifirm. Herba Ingredients is the ingredient producer and the meat substitute producer is Me-at.
Talk to FoodIngredientsFirstArjan Geerlings, Ph.D, Marketing and New Product Development Manager at Herba Ingredients, stresses the importance of working within the consortium and says it has resulted in faster development of the products and ingredients used.
“The beans are growing very well in the Netherlands, with good yields. There are also many different varieties of beans known, and we already knew that between one variety and another there are many differences in functionality, protein levels, taste, color, etc.
“Thanks to this collaboration with different farmers, in the first year we grew more than 40 varieties of broad beans,” Geerlings continues. “We then continued to test them in our lab and pilot plant to find the most promising varieties through protein concentration and texturing.”
A process of trial and error
After this testing process, Herba then sent the samples to its consortium partner, Me-at, who then developed the meat replacement products.
Once feedback from the consortium was received, Herba was able to add two different varieties to industrial production trials to refine the process to obtain the best ingredients for making meat replacement products.
Fast forward to February this year, and the first products using Herba ingredients were launched at Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands. Notably, Albert Heijn is also responsible for most meat substitutes in the Netherlands, Geerlings adds.
Plant-based burgers, sausages and ground meat under the supermarket brand have found success, according to Geerlings, who adds that “the taste is so similar to meat that you can barely tell the difference between them and real meat”.
Beyond Meat Substitutes
For Herba Ingredients, being part of the consortium and developing the bean as a viable ingredient was a game changer.
“It gave us the correct knowledge of broad bean varieties, and now we are able to grow them with specific farmers,” Geerlings notes.
In addition, the varieties used do not need a lot of water, so they are both good for the environment and for farmers, he adds. “They’re 100% Dutch with great taste and locally produced,” Geerlings continues, lamenting that these fava ingredients “tick a lot of boxes for the flexitarian consumer.”
“They are also allergen-free, soy-free and locally grown: good for the whole chain.”
“The consortium helps develop the right raw materials and allows us to fine-tune the whole process. You can make good products locally, grown in local production areas and have contributed to the transition to a society that consumes less meat and more vegetable protein,” he points out.
Although the products have been on the market for a few months, there are many opportunities ahead.
“We hope to involve more farmers in the early stages and look to improve the crop yield of our ingredients to get more protein from the fields,” he explains. “Optimizing fava bean cultivation means we can also reduce the need for fertilizer.”
But it doesn’t stop at meat alternatives, according to Geerlings. It reveals that Herba is well on its way to developing plant-based drinks, egg substitutes and high-protein cheese.
“These concepts, of course, require different ingredients, different proteins, which is also a direction that we can explore within our R&B teams in the future,” he comments.
Fava is gaining ground
Several key ingredients players have explored the potential of the bean in recent months.
As the plant-based protein category evolves, the industry is leapfrogging in refining product development toward more authentic meat analogues and vegan-friendly NPDs.
A recent example is Chr. Hansen’s Vega Boost culture which is made from beans. The cream cheese, which has a nutritional composition similar to dairy products for animals, was developed in partnership with Givaudan, Ingredion and AAK.
In similar developments, Nutris Group recently opened what it hails as the “first European hybrid factory” for the production of herbal ingredients from fava beans and potatoes in Novi Senkovac, Croatia.
Beneo also made a €50 million ($52.6 million) investment in a pulse processing site based in Offstein, Germany, strengthening its portfolio of factories. The site will produce protein-rich pulse ingredients. Initially, it will focus on protein concentrate, high-starch flour and bean husks, with the possibility of processing other pulses in the future.
By Elizabeth Green
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