From sunflower side-streams to tasty meat alternatives

Climate change, natural resource scarcity and fast-growing world population is threatening our access to nutritious, safe and affordable food. One solution is to move toward a more plant-based food system. VTT, DSM, DIL German Institute of Food Technologies, University of Helsinki and ABP Beef have launched a research project aimed at utilizing sunflower press-cakes as protein ingredient to develop sustainable and tasty meat alternatives.

Taste2Meat is an EIT Food funded project which is coordinated by VTT Technology Center of Finland. The project focuses on mitigating climate change and increasing EU’s protein self-sufficiency by providing sustainable meat alternatives to reduce meat consumption.

“Our food system is going through unprecedented crisis and there is even a higher risk of global food security compared to two to three years ago," said Research Professor at VTT, Nesli Sözer. "Therefore, we must efficiently utilize existing plant-based side-streams as high-value protein ingredients for food.” By upcycling sunflower press-cake as protein ingredient and designing both hybrid

(meat and plant protein) and solely plant protein-based tasty meat alternatives to European consumers, the Taste2Meat project contributes to zero-waste and sustainable food system.

“We are especially interested in a rising number of flexitarians, who integrate plant-based products in their diet but consume mainly meat products. Tasty meat alternatives and hybrids create new business opportunities and enable smooth transition for people to increase the amount of plant-based ingredients in their diet.”

Sunflower seed is the third-largest oil seed source globally. Sunflower press-cake is a side stream

obtained from sunflower oil production. In addition, the project utilizes pea and rapeseed proteins as co-ingredients together with sunflower protein.

One of the goals of this project is to enable quick market entry for meat alternative products and processes in current rapidly changing business environment through scientific know-how.

During the project, consumer studies will be carried out to analyze European consumers’ perception

and attitudes toward meat alternatives and the main added values that consumers associate with them.

“Consumer acceptance has a key role in development of feasible business cases around meat alternatives. Sensory properties such as taste and meat-like texture are the most influential predictors of meat alternatives acceptance,” Sözer said.