Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NextGenProteins (BIOCONVERSION OF UNDERUTILIZED RESOURCES INTO NEXT GENERATION PROTEINS FOR FOOD AND FEED)
Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31
NextGenProteins will optimise the production of three alternative proteins and verify their use in various feed and food applications, in order to meet customers’ needs and ensure consumer acceptance. The project will contribute to strengthening food security, sustainability and self-sufficiency of EU protein production by demonstrating the suitability and economic viability of next-generation proteins as part of food and feed value chains; with less strain on natural resources and reduced environmental impacts.
The overall objective of NextGenproteins has been defined "to optimise and validate, in an industrially relevant environment, the production of proteins from microalgae, single cells and insects and demonstrate their suitability as alternative sustainable sources in food and feed value chains."
The main work performed and results from WP1 so far consisted of interviewing the industrial partners involved to gather their view and experiences on the regulatory and safety framework, as well as other regulations governing the production, safety and application of alternative proteins for food and feed, knowledge gaps and regulatory safety barriers are highlighted with a focus on the three NextGenProteins.
Among the main outtakes from the interviews was that consumer health is the most important and therefore scientific information of the new proteins is needed. Traceability and labelling of the products is important and education of consumers/farmers/other stakeholders about new protein sources is needed.
WP2 is devoted to the development and production of microalgae, insect and SCP proteins, optimisation of production processes and upscaling. A database with results of proximate composition, amino acid and fatty acid composition, minerals, potential existence of toxins, allergens as well as their digestibility has been assessed. Functional properties of the protein powders have also been assessed. Sensory properties of the alternative proteins were tested and will be worked on and improved in collaborative effort with product development in WP3.
WPs 3 and 4 will implement and demonstrate the application potentials of the alternative proteins for food and feed. Many food prototypes have already been developed by the food industry partners. The proteins have been showcased in ready meals, bread, snacks, emulsion products and drinks. For animals feed, WP4 has been evaluating the proteins in extrusion processes and technological and nutritional quality assessments before producing test diets and valuating the feeds through physico-chemical analyses. Dose-response trials were developed for poultry, seabrem and salmon during the period. Two poultry related feeding trials have already be completed in Italy with salmon and seabream coming up this year.
WP5 will explore market opportunities and business potential for the alternative proteins and work with consumers and consumer acceptance. In the first project year, focus group discussions were performed in order to obtain an understanding of key factors determining consumer acceptance towards the use of the three NextGen proteins and their processing technologies. The focus group studies gave a strong evidence that consumers are aware of the need for these kinds of new food production methods and value their sustainability benefits. A interview study on stakeholder attitudes towards the NextGen proteins was also conducted showing that the overall attitude of the interviewed stakeholders towards the NextGen proteins is positive. Many had an open mind-set towards the development and expressed willingness to participate in piloting projects.
WP6 will assess the environmental and economic impact that the alternative proteins have on sustainability aspects and value chain risks. The first project period has evolved around gathering data and building datasets for the forthcoming sustainability analyses, such as Life Cycle Assessment.
WP7 aims to develop and apply an innovative Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework, effectively disseminate project results and ensure their exploitation. RRI framework for has been established linking the objectives and expected impacts of the project with the concept of RRI and the global grand challenges related to alternative proteins. Major Stakeholders of the Food and Feed sectors, Policy makers and dissemination intermediaries have been identified and listed in a database. WP7 has been active in dissemination through social media, website and is planning independently and in collaboration with the 3 other project funded under the same call, workshops and meetings for wider dissemination and communication.