Heritage plant-protein maker Quorn awarded its most recent Future Food-Tech Innovation Challenge award to French startup Umiami for the company’s novel extrusion technology process that promises thicker, more realistic cuts of plant-based protein.
The Paris-based faux meat startup works to tackle the texture challenge faced by companies using high moisture extrusion (HME) technology to create plant-based meat fibers. Through proprietary technology, the startup says that it can produce horizontal, diagonal, and vertical fibers – HME can only produce horizontal and V-shaped fibers.
As a result of its technological breakthrough, Umiami explains that it can create meat alternatives that are five times thicker than HME equivalents. Additionally, the startup’s technology allows for more balanced water and fat content to be introduced into the final protein product.
While Quorn set its challenge to task startups with mimicking whole cuts of chicken due to the protein’s flexibility and wide appeal, Umiami took the challenge a step further and showed that its technology is applicable to not only chicken breasts and nuggets but also to fattier products such as cod.
Due to its ability to control the direction of the fibers as well as work with different plant-based proteins such as soy and pea, Umiami explains that it can replicate succulent whole muscle cuts of animal meat in a more realistic fashion than HME. Current HME technology is limited in its ability to introduce fat and water content into plant-based products.
The processing technology uses extruder technology that will burn these ingredients when it creates muscle fibers if they are included at the beginning of the texturization process. As a result, these flavors are added later and tend to only penetrate the surface of meat alternatives leaving the interior of many meat alternatives dry and bland.
Umiami solves this issue by limiting the number of processing steps and creates plant-based meat alternatives without texturizing agents such as methylcellulose and gums. By limiting the number of texturizing agents, Umiami is able to produce its plant-based meats with around 10 ingredients rather than the 30 to 40 generally required by manufacturers using traditional HME technology.
Not only has Quorn awarded this French startup for its ingenuity, but so too have investors. Since its launch in May 2020, the startup has raised €2.3 million to develop its pilot production site where it intends to process 100 tons of plant-based protein annually. Construction on the site is scheduled to begin in early 2022.
To help get its initial product range off the ground, which will consist of white-label products, including chicken breasts, cod and nuggets, the young enterprise recruited Guillaume Feneyrou, who spent over two decades at Nestlé working as the company’s Industrial Director.
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