Soy Protein Processing for Plant-Based Foods

Demand for quality plant-based proteins is being driven by consumers desire for more sustainable and nutritious food. According to a recent Bloomberg projection, plant-based proteins could make up 7.7% of the global protein market – with market revenue potential to grow from $29.4 US billion in 2020 to over $162 billion by 2030.

How the ingredient is processed has important considerations to meeting the market demand for more nutritious and environmentally conscience food products. Traditionally soy processing involves the use of hexane – a chemical identified by the U.S. EPA as a contributing atmospheric pollutant with potential harm to human health – to extract oil from the meal. Mechanically processing via high-shear dry extrusion cooks the soybean through heat generated by mechanical shear. High-shear dry extrusion processing of soybeans has been well accepted as a high-quality and sustainable solution for soy ingredient processing. Making a quality texturized plant-based protein, namely texturized soy protein – or TSP – starts with using a high-quality soymeal.

Next, better oil stability due to deactivation of lipoxygenase and other lipid-degrading enzymes promotes a long-shelf life. Previous shelf-life studies have determined ExPress® soy meal and TSP can be stored up to 1.7 years at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) according to a study conducted by the Center for Crop Utilization at Iowa State University.

Finally, TSP made from ExPress® soymeal – with typically 6% – 8% residual oil – will have a higher product density which can have implications in TSP palatability or mouthfeel, a lighter TSP color, and 3-4 times its weight in water absorption.  These characteristics are aligned with a denser TSP product desirable for plant-based foods.

A sensory study performed by University of Illinois evaluated chili made with TSP from Insta-Pro®’s extrusion process versus commercial TSP from hexane-extraction process. The results showed that chili with extruded TSP had a better mouthfeel than hexane-extracted TSP. Furthermore, there was no taste preference based on how the TSP was processed – hexane-extracted or extruded. The implications of this study prove that Insta-Pro® extrusion is a suitable process to make high-quality TSP for food.

In summary, TSP made from ExPress® soymeal is a suitable plant-based protein and offers a solution to the growing demand for better nutrition and more sustainable food products.

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