USA, Washington. The Good Food Institute (GFI) announced its newest grantees after calling for proposals on plant-based or fermentation-derived fats for use in meat alternatives.
According to the nonprofit, it was motivated to fund alternative fat projects after publishing its recent report on future production requirements and realising that sustainable alternative fat innovation was crucial for the success of the alternative meat industry.
The industry currently relies on coconut oil as the primary fat in products because it is semi-solid around room temperature, making it a better substitute for solid animal fat than other plant oils, GFI writes.
The report found that by 2030, the plant-based meat industry will require at least 16% of the global supply of coconut oil if it grows at the rate projected by multiple market analysts.
Given the growing demand for coconut oil from other sectors and its volatile sourcing, relying on a large percentage of its supply could lead to significant bottlenecks in alternative meat production.
As the Institute states, the currently available animal-free fats fall short on essential characteristics, including function, organoleptics, cost, sustainability, and nutrition. Therefore, scientists in the alt-protein sector are working on technologies to solve these challenges with the next generation of animal-free fats.
The five grantees are working on creating oleogels and fermentation-derived alternatives. Cultivated fat developers were not included in the call.
Risk of trans fats
Traditionally, plant-based alternative fats have been made through hydrogenation or lipid fractionation. This transforms plant oils into solid, saturated lipids with high melting points. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is the key ingredient in plant-based butter substitutes, margarine, and shortening.
While hydrogenation is scalable, partial hydrogenation forms trans-fat byproducts which promote heart disease and, as a result, are no longer deemed as GRAS (“Generally Recognized as Safe”) by the FDA.
As an alternative to creating saturated and trans fats, plant oils that contain mixtures of fats can be separated to create more pure fractions of desirable types of fats. Lipid fractionation is a separation technique that can extract saturated lipids from unsaturated lipids.
Lipid fractionation, like hydrogenation, successfully creates alternative fats with ideal structures and melting temperatures, but both methods rely on saturated lipids that would have similar nutritional issues as animal fats.
The grantees, therefore, work in different areas to develop fats that emulate the desirable traits of animal fats while also being a healthier, climate and animal welfare-friendly option.
Source: The Good Food Institute