In the second instalment of our plant-based leaders series, Bethan Grylls spoke with three powerful thought-leaders on the topic of alternative protein. You can watch the full vodcast below or listen as a podcast here.
Bethan’s guests included:
Gabriela Perez-Hernandez, Kellogg Company’s Director of External Partnerships for the Global Plant Protein Innovation platform;
Liz Williams, Development & Application Director for meat, meat alternatives and savoury snacks for Kerry;
And Sigal Meirovitch, Director of Protein R&D at Equinom.
Kicking off the discussion, Gabriela explained what was driving the push for plant-based, which she attributed to health, animal welfare and the environment. She described the modern-day consumer as “purpose driven” and keen to align with brands that reflect their own values.
Liz agreed and said the plant-based movement had been very much consumer-driven. “We have been gleaning out insights from them and underpinning our concepts and commitments based on consumer feedback”. She also acknowledged sustainability as a key motivator for switching to plant-based.
Sigal spoke of the complexities around mimicking desirable qualities of meat-based products such as flavours, texture and protein content. She noted that there was much potential in the natural diversity of plants that has, so far, remained untapped. She explained that Equinom has been focused on that natural diversity rather than GMOs or gene editing. She gave the example of the protein-rich pea protein it developed for Roquette, which has 50 percent more protein than varieties currently on the market.
New Food has previously spoken about the issues of balancing overdosing and masking of plant-based ingredients as the industry seeks to find ways to mimic the experience of animal-based meat in plants. Sigal offered insight that this may be closer than we think, however, explaining that Equinom has a whole team dedicated to tasting an unique equipment to screen ingredients to ensure they’re matching in terms of biochemical composition and functional characteristics.
The panel also discussed the most popular plant-based crop, soy, and whether it stands to remain as the lead ingredient. “There’s a lot we can learn from soy, but we are also seeing some other ingredients come to fore such as chickpeas.”
“It depends on what the brand is looking to achieve,” added Liz. “For milk you’re looking for ingredients that offer that silky smoothness, for meat you want that juiciness.
Liz explained that authenticity in terms of the flavour notes is vital. So when choosing a base, it’s about looking at what notes you want to hit, for example smoky for a flame grilled experience.
The panel concluded with the guests agreeing that as a fast-paced sector, collaboration was a necessity.
Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever, and they know what they want, Liz noted, as she highlighted the importance of being transparent as a brand.
And for those wondering whether plant-based is just a fleeting trend, Gabriela assured not. “The plant-based sector is only going to get bigger.”
Listen two episode two here.
Gabriela Perez-Hernandez is Kellogg Company’s Director of External Partnerships for the Global Plant Protein Innovation platform. In this role, she leads the identification of partners with technical solutions to enable Kellogg to deliver innovation in plant-based protein foods.
She has over 15 year of experience delivering innovation across different categories at Kellogg from concept-ualization to commercialization.
Gabriela holds a PhD degree in Food Science from Texas A&M University & a degree in Food Engineering from The University of Guanajuato in Mexico.
Liz Williams is the Development & Application Director for meat, meat alternatives and savoury snacks for Kerry. Liz leads the research, development and application meat alternatives team; collaborating with business development, chefs, technology innovation and front-end innovation, the team are responsible for short to midterm concept development, partnering with customers to deliver on the rapidly changing market and consumer needs in the meat alternatives market. Liz holds a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics from Cardiff University and has more than 20 years of RD&A experience working within the meat, snacks and meat alternatives product categories.
Sigal Meirovitch is Equinom’s Director of Protein R&D and is responsible for translating the food industry complex product specifications into quantitative and qualitative product definitions for the end-to-end seed product development. She holds a PhD in Biotechnology from Hebrew University and has more than 15 years of R&D experience in protein expression, purification and characterisation, and in biopolymer product development in industry and academia. She’s also directed Product Development for the consumer industry in a start-up environment for the last seven years and is an inventor on five patents on protein engineering and biopolymer production.