One provider looking to meet this growing demand is a Polish start-up known as NapiFeryn Biotech, which is using rapeseed — also known as canola — as a protein source for the plant-based food market.
“So far, there has been no technology capable of extracting protein [from oilseeds] with sufficient quality and yield to make the process economically viable unitl now,” NapiFeryn co-founder and chief technology officer Piotr Wnukowski stated at the Innoveit awards in Budapest, according to Food Navigator.
Through its patented technology, the company has turned the seed of the bright yellow flower into a protein powder known as Raptein by extracting, purifying and isolating pure forms of protein from the seed.
Rapeseed contains up to 20 percent protein but its bitter flavor has prohibited it from being commoditized as a nutritious food source for humans, instead limiting its scope to livestock and poultry feed.
The start-up claims their purification process is the fundamental step in reducing the flower’s bitter flavor, which now allows for the ingredient to be incorporated in everything from shakes, and baked goods to mayonnaise and pasta. The Raptein protein can also absorb fat and water and be used for emulsifying, gelling, and foaming in food processing.
“We are able to purify protein from so-called anti-nutritional factors. There are two families of them: phytic components and phenolic compounds. The phenolic components render this bitter taste, and we are able [with our purification technology] to remove them effectively from the product,” Wnukowski said.
The new approach could foster more growth in the plant-based food industry, which according to Markets and Markets research, is estimated to be worth 18.5 billion this year and is expected to reach 40.6 billion by 2025, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent.
Market growth mostly stems from the younger generation who are known to gravitate towards clean eating and more sustainability-sourced products.
For now, soy is currently the most dominant ingredient in the plant-based food segment and is also the staple ingredient found in the Impossible Burger, giving it its famous faux-meat texture, but Wnukowski claims rapeseed could give soy a run for its money.
“Soy has dominated the plant-based protein market to the extent that 95 percent of all plant-based proteins — with the exception of wheat — is soy. But rapeseed… is even better, ” he said.
According to the start-up, rapeseed has more amino acids than soy and doesn’t carry isoflavones, a type of plant estrogen (phytoestrogen) found in soy that can alter the estrogen levels in females.
As of now, NapiFeryn has no plans to sell Raptein itself, instead hoping to provide its technology to oil producers in the industry. After the rapeseed protein is manufactured, the start-up would then connect the licensed oil producer with a global distributor it has handpicked for them to to sell their product too. Currently, Raptein is still in the early phases of development but consumers can expect it to hit the global food market by 2022.