Skip to main content



Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

Access to high quality, sustainably produced proteins is becoming increasingly restricted due to a growing world population, increased pressure on natural resources and climate change, while at the same time the global protein demand has never been higher. To meet the increasing demand, mainly driven by a growing population and socioeconomic changes such as urbanisation, increased incomes, aging population and recognition of proteins’ role in healthy diets, current protein production will have to double by 2050. The EU is not self-sufficient when it comes to protein production. A large proportion of the current protein demand is met with imported proteins and the protein deficit has been fluctuating between 70% and 80% in the past forty years, with severe concerns regarding food security and the general competitiveness of the EU.

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."
NextGenProteins is organised into nine work packages (WPs). WP1 is specifically set up to evaluate the European regulatory framework for alternative proteins, food and feed and identify barriers for innovations and how they may be addressed.
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.
Overall, at the completion of the first 18 months, NextGenProteins is on a good track in reaching all the specific objectives during the project lifetime. Work has started in all work packages; the work in the preparation and testing phase of the project, especially in WP2, WP3 and WP4 is progressing well and is expected to give the necessary outputs on time for the business, consumer and exploitation phase of the project. NextGenProteins will achieve its objectives by enabling efficient production and processing methods for the three highly promising alternative protein sources and evaluate their potentials for commercial utilisation in both food and feed. The novelty of the project is to create value from waste by applying three bio-conversion processes, each utilising an existing industrial and/or commercial waste stream to create safe, sustainable, high-quality proteins in line with EU regulatory frameworks. NextGenProteins will identify potential production bottlenecks for the three protein sources and pave the way for industrial up-scaling through practical-, research- and/or concept application in feed and food products. Application potentials will be explored in close collaboration between the multi-disciplinary RTD partners and the small, medium and large food and feed production/marketing companies within the consortium. NextGenProteins will utilise the combined strength and expertise of the RTD, business and market partners, as well as those of stakeholders and consumers, to develop resilient and sustainable alternative protein value chains in line with the values, needs and expectations of both producers and the consumers.
Consortium photo from the kick-off meeting