Could citrus fibre be used for meat alternatives?

This natural option could be a way to allay concerns about plant-based products being highly processed.

15 August 2019
plant-basedlabellingmeat alternativemanufacture
image credit: Getty Images

What are plant players using at the moment?

Something called methyl cellulose – doesn’t exactly sound natural right? It’s created from cellulose, a natural substance found in plant cells, then heated with a solution and treated with methyl chloride. Try explaining that to consumers.

The end result is a white odourless powder that can form a gel at higher temperatures and is particularly attractive to meat alternatives such as burgers as it cooks well, along with boosting succulence and juiciness.

It’s used by a number of high profile brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Nestle’s new Awesome burger, but it’s not something found in the kitchen cupboard at home.

The ingredient has even been cited as evidence of the highly processed nature of plant-based meat products.

So citrus fibre – is it really that easy to swap it in?

Biotech company Fiberstar reckons it has received numerous requests from plant-based meat manufacturers for a clean label solution to methyl cellulose.

It has developed a new product that uses citrus fibre (a byproduct of the juicing industry), agar, native starch and psyllium that delivers a texture that simulates real animal meat and produces a burst of juiciness and sizzle during cooking.

It is non-allergenic, non GMO, organic and has no E numbers, said the company.

Meanwhile, it claims the cost is competitive considering its clean label credentials.

But that’s using four ingredients to replace one. Is that truly helpful?

Fiberstar VP of marketing Jennifer Stephens acknowledged there is no single clean label ingredient that can replace methyl cellulose on the market right now that can be used in meat alternative applications.

“Our replacement solution is Citri-Fi in combination with three other clean label hydrocolloids. Citri-Fi plus a gelling agent forms on emulsion while the other two hydrocolloids provide cold and warm binding strength. As a result, this prevents the patty from falling apart but allows some water and oil to release during the cooking process to give that sizzle,” she told Food Navigator USA.

“The other benefit is that this system allows formulators to reduce the amount of saturated plant-based fats like palm oil or coconut oil used to improve the nutritional declaration. Manufacturers are requesting these key critical success factors.”

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