15SAF-IP Functional mycoproteins from the Quorn fermentation process as novel sustainable ingredients

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Energy, Geosci, Infrast & Society

Abstract

Milk, whey and eggs are currently the main sources of functional proteins utilised by food processors as emulsifiers, foaming and gelling ingredients. However, due to their high costs, market volatility and high environmental impact, the food industry is looking for sustainable alternatives. There has been a growing trend to replace them with plant proteins such as soy proteins; however soy has been tainted by the association with genetic modification. Other strategies include extraction of proteins from the food industry's waste streams, including brewing effluents and vegetable processing co-products.

In this context the production of fungal proteins (or mycoproteins) by Marlow Foods for use in their meat-replacer product Quorn is a potential alternative source of sustainable functional proteins. Based on the fermentation of starch into protein by the fungus Fusarium venenatum, this process was shown to result in 90% lower emission rates of greenhouse gases and benefits on land and water footprints in comparison with beef products. In addition a liquid waste stream is generated as part of the fermentation process and is currently unexploited. A current EPSRC-funded collaboration between Marlow Foods, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh highlighted that proteins extracted from the Quorn fermentation broth and waste stream on a laboratory scale displayed outstanding foaming, emulsifying and/or gelling properties, and showed potential and fat- or egg-replacing ingredients.

Following this initial study, we now propose to produce and extract functional fungal proteins (FFPs) from the Quorn fermentation process as sustainable, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective alternatives to animal proteins for the food industry. Innovate UK funding will allow the Marlow Foods-led consortium to design and assess a scalable protein extraction process for both fermentation broth and waste stream according to protein purity, yield, functionality, composition and associated costs. The results obtained will then be used to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of optimising the Quorn fermentation process for FFP production. The extracted proteins will then be characterised as functional alternatives to animal proteins, fat-reducing and sucrose-reducing agents in food products in partnership with new collaborators Mars Chocolate and New-Food Innovation. In addition, Marlow Foods will assess the feasibility of reintegrating FFPs extracted from the waste stream back into the Quorn process as egg albumen replacer (used as a binding agent), which would further reduce its environmental impact.

Based on our preliminary study it is estimated that up to 13,500 tons of fungal proteins (at 80% protein purity) could be produced per year, which if used to replace functional animal proteins could open up a market worth £71M per annum. In addition the exploitation of protein extracts from the waste effluent could open an additional £13M per annum market. This project will contribute to improve quality of life by offering manufacturers cost-effective functional protein alternatives, allowing them to offer cheaper products to the benefit of consumers. In addition, the potential use of FFPs as fat replacers or sucrose replacers could contribute to reducing the impact of obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Technical Summary

We propose to produce and extract functional proteins of fungal origin from both Quorn fermentation broth and waste stream as sustainable, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective functional ingredients for the food industry. A current EPSRC-funded collaboration between Marlow Foods Ltd (MF, as producer of the meat replacer Quorn product), Heriot-Watt University (HWU) and the University of Edinburgh (UoE) (EP/J501682/1) has highlighted the unexploited potential of mycoprotein extracts as foaming, emulsifying and gelling agents on a laboratory scale. Innovate UK funding will allow the consortium to design and assess a scalable protein extraction process for both fermentation broth and waste according to protein purity, yield, functionality, composition and associated costs. The results obtained will be used to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of optimising the Quorn fermentation process for functional protein production. The extracted proteins will be characterised as functional alternatives to animal proteins and calorie-reducing agents in food products in partnership with new collaborators Mars Chocolate (MC) and New-Food Innovation (NFI).

Planned Impact

A number of economic, societal and environmental benefits have been identified that could occur as a consequence of this project.

a. Economic
The economic benefits from this project are potentially highly significant. The industrial partners in the consortium will benefit from new non-animal food ingredients that can be used in their products and processes. Marlow Foods will have access to a new revenue stream producing functional mycoproteins for food uses. Mars Chocolate will benefit from novel mycoprotein ingredients that have the potential to act as sugar replacers and high foaming capacity ingredients.

b. Environmental
The Quorn mycoprotein process has already been shown to be an environmentally friendly process. This project will contribute further to the environmental and sustainability credentials of mycoprotein by developing methods to separate protein from the waste from the fermenter, leading to a lowering of the waste sent for disposal.

c. Societal
Society as whole will benefit from a move away from animal protein to functional mycoprotein, which has been demonstrated to have health benefits. In particular, the opportunity for the development of more palatable vegan foods based on replacement of milk or egg proteins with mycoprotein will be investigated. If successfully implemented, the project also has the potential for significant job creation in regions close to the Quorn plant. Success in the project will lead to the incorporation of a waste protein separation process into the overall Quorn process. In addition, the decision to produce functional fungal proteins using the optimised fermentation process would require building a new fermenter for increased capacity. Marlow Foods have estimated that this could results in expansion of the company leading to the creation of up to 100 jobs.

d. Public engagement
Further societal benefits can be accrued through public engagement. The area of food and health is of great interest to the general public. The opportunity exists for us to connect with the public through the Edinburgh Beltane Beacon for Public Engagement in Science an organisation (www.edinburghbeltane.net). The annual Edinburgh International Science Festival offers huge scope for promoting the results of this project to a wider general audience. Both HWU and UoE are members of the Edinburgh Beltane. To reach members of the public who would not normally attend science fairs, but nonetheless have an interest in the health implications of what they eat, we would explore using other events such as the Royal Highland Agricultural show as a showcase for food and health related research.

e. Dissemination and collaboration
Dissemination of research on functional fungal proteins that may be interest to other academics and industrial sectors will be achieved through publication in high impact peer-reviewed journals and presentation at international conferences. The researchers in this proposal have a track record of publication across a wide range of journal subject areas (food chemistry, physical chemistry, colloid chemistry and soft-matter physics) with this breadth of coverage ensuring outreach to a wide range of secondary beneficiaries.
The academics have the ideal fit in terms of their complementary scientific expertise, and excellent track record of engaging with industry. Stephen Euston (SE) and Paul Clegg (PC) lead a joint translational research project with industry on novel food proteins. SE is PI or CoI on three government and industry funded projects for the food industry, and is joint PI on a recently awarded EUH2020 grant. PC has been a Royal Society Industry Research Fellow with Syngenta and has contributed as PI/CoI to a number of industry related projects. He is Director of the Edinburgh Complex Fluid Partnership (ECFP, www.edinburghcomplexfluids.com), which is the industrial collaboration vehicle of the University Soft Condensed Matter Group.

Publications


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Description This project has two separate research aims. Following on from a previous project where we assessed the feasibility of extraction of functional fungal extracts from the Quorn fermentation process, we have identified six potential extraction techniques. In this project techniques have been used to prepare functional fungal extracts of a suitable purity that will tested for their functional behavior in model food systems relevant to foaming, emulsification and gelling applications. The extracts will be tested for their suitability as replacers of foaming and emulsifying ingredients in confectionary and chocolate formulations. In addition the extracts will also be compared to current animal and plant based protein foamers and emulsifiers to determine the feasibility of marketing these as a functional, sustainable source of protein ingredients. To date, we have shown that the functionality is complex and may arise from a combination of polymeric (protein and polysaccharide) molecules that confer the ability to foam and emulsify, and particles (hyphae/cell/cell fragments) that provide longer term stability to foam bubbles and emulsion droplets. This offers the possibility that a natural foaming and emulsifying product could be developed from these extracts that does not require the declaration of an E-number on food products. Work is ongoing to identify the best method for extraction of these foaming and emulsification ingredients, and the conditions under which they give optimum performance in food formulations.
Exploitation Route In the short term Marlow Foods (Quorn) could choose to develop an extraction process for their waste streams to fractionate the proteins/cell debris and convert this to a functional ingredient. In the medium term, other partners in the consortium could choose to exploit this functional fungal extract in their own products. In the longer term, other food manufacturers could be interested in the extracts as a new food ingredient.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
 
Description Bridge2Food Food proteins Conference paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of research results at a industry/academic conference on sustainable production of food proteins. We presented our approach to separation isolation, and modulation of functionality of novel food proteins. The talk was well received by industry members of the audience and resulted in a number of inquiries about possible collaborations and/or consultancy work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Food Colloids Conference, Wageningen The Netherlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Results presented at a major food colloids conference (sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry) held in Wageningen, The Netherlands in April 2016.
A poster was given on the computer simulation of olegelation by sterols and sterol esters, and on the functional properties of novel fungal proteins.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Interface Food and Drink reformulation Meeting at Strathpeffer Pavillion, Inverness 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Interface food and drink reformulation group is a working group set up by Interface, the academic-industry engagement body, that has the remit to facilitate collaboration between Scottish academics and the food industry in the area of food reformulation for improved health. I was invited to talk about our work on novel, sustainable proteins as animal protein replacers, and on fat replacement in foods.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015