It was recently found that garden cress can absorb cobalamin, otherwise known as vitamin B12. The plant can store the nutrients in its leaves. This discovery from the University of Kent’s School of Biosciences stands out because plants don’t usually need or produce cobalamin. Manufacturers can even utilize this plant in their vegan and vegetarian products – making up for lost nutrients.
The university did a study where the garden cress was grown with a high concentration of cobalamin for a week. The leaves were then washed and analyzed. They then tested a type of cobalamin that would show up as fluorescent light under a laser. This study showed an accumulation of cobalamin within part of the leaf cell.
Since plants don’t usually produce or store this vitamin, this discovery could be a big help for plant-based diets. Vegetarians and vegans normally do not consume enough vitamin B12 due to their dietary habits. A vitamin B12 deficiency has several downsides such as fatigue, dizziness and even trouble with memory. This research can potentially improve the diet and health of this demographic and food companies can utilize this plant in their plant-based formulations to help. Just as this plant has proved to store nutrients, it could be possible that other plants can this as well – if so, a lot of deficiencies could be treated. Vitamins A and D, iodine, calcium, zinc, omega -3 and fatty acids are also common deficiencies amongst vegetarians and vegans.
This discovery is also a huge benefit to the food manufacturing industry. Manufacturers can incorporate such vitamin-enhanced plants in their plant-based food and beverage formulations. As it was found that plant-based labeled foods are popular with consumers, manufacturers could increase sales by incorporating more plant-based products into their product portfolios.
Some manufacturers have already caught on to this trend. Beyond Meat, Daiya and Hippeas are all successful plant-based brands. Snacks like pasta and chips are now being formulated with seaweed, nori, kelp and wakame. Burgers are also getting a leafy makeover with products like plant-based burgers and sausages. In fact, there is even a new vegan butter that is made from the liquid residue of chickpeas.
In the last ten years, vegetable intake has gone up by 52 percent within consumers under the age of 40, according to The NPD Group. In addition, the market research group Mintel reported that there was a 25 percent increase in vegetarian claims between 2012 and 2016. Also, according to Mintel, 31 percent of Americans practice meat-free days. On top of avoiding animal products, clean eating is another big reason consumers are straying from the meat market.
“Nutrition is a very complex science… yet it’s the most personal of sciences. Food literally becomes a part of who you are. There is no other consumer product like that.” Nutrition expert Richard Black told Food Dive.