Climate smart food innovation using plant and seaweed proteins from upcycled sources (ERA-Net SUSFOOD2)

Keywords: upcycled plant and seaweed proteins, plant-based food, meat alternative and cheese alternative,
sustainable protein shift, food loss and waste

Food choices impact human and planetary health. The negative environmental impacts of the food system, increasing food insecurity and the prevalence of unhealthy diets are driving policymakers, scientists, companies and consumers to demand sustainable solutions. Globally, livestock emits 14.5% of GHGs, causes 30% of biodiversity loss, and meat demand is projected to double by 2050. Transitioning diets to more sustainable sources of protein is crucial. Plant-based proteins are currently the fastest growing food trend but are dependent on soy. The IPSUS project will exploit opportunities for extracting upcycled plant and seaweed proteins from raw materials otherwise destined to join the ~1.6 billion tonnes of annual global food loss and waste (FLW). Six protein-rich sources (pumpkin, hazelnut, grape, potato, brewers’ spent grain, seaweeds) were selected for study across partner countries (UK, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Morocco). The quantity, quality and upcycling opportunities of FLW along these value chains will be investigated. Novel protein extraction methods will be tested to identify less energy-intensive and more affordable techniques. The related nutritional quality and safety of the plant and seaweed sources and upcycled proteins will be assessed, taking bio-accessibility and potential allergenicity into account. Initially incorporation of upcycled FLW proteins into meat alternative and dairy alternative formulations will be at lab-scale, followed by prototype development at pilot-scale by the industrial partners. Instrumental and sensory acceptability of the prototypes will be compared to existing products, additionally targeting improved nutritional (low salt, sugar, fat) and clean label (no chemical additives) offerings currently lacking in the alternative protein range. Exploration of consumer behaviours, preferences and the enabling regulatory and policy environment will reveal drivers and barriers of the sustainable upcycled plant-based protein shift.