Wide Open Agriculture (ASX: WOA) is a step closer to commercialising its lupin protein with Curtin University researchers to begin early-stage food and beverage development for the US$18.5 billion global plant-based protein market.
The company secured a research services agreement with Western Australia-based Curtin, with researchers to develop products such as burgers, milk, milk powder, pasta and noodles from the food grade lupin protein.
This latest effort towards commercialising the protein follows the CSIRO’s successful production of the material at pilot scale.
In its first step towards product development, Curtin researchers aim to better-understand how the lupin protein functions as a texturizing ingredient in simple food systems known as matrices, which will be vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and non-GMO.
The effectiveness of the lupin to form these matrices will be studies at laboratory scale. Results will be used to optimise formulation and production methods for desirable textural properties such as viscosity gel strength and solubility.
Wide Open expects this step will reduce the time required for future product development work and incorporation into existing foods.
It is anticipated the initial research program will run between eight and 10 weeks.
Industry expert to consult on project
As part of this process, lupin protein co-founder Dr Stuart Johnson will consult with Wide Open.
Dr Johnson is a former associate professor with Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences. He currently director of Ingredients by Design, which specialises in serving the agrifood industries by providing advice and research to support development of plant-based food ingredients.
Wide Open noted Dr Johnson had been previously involved in the launch of Sanitarium’s gluten-free, sorghum-based Weetbix breakfast cereal.
Additionally, Wide Open claims Dr Johnson’s research in lupin and sorghum food science, technology and human nutrition has resulted in a “greater understanding” of the properties of these pulses.
This, in turn, has led to a shift in using these pulses as a high-quality human food from a low value animal feed.
Growing plant-based protein market
The rapidly growing plant-based protein market is forecast to rise from US$18.5 billion in 2019 to US$40.6 billion by 2025.
Within that, Australia’s share of the plant-based protein market is predicted to reach US$3 billion by 2030.
Plant-based protein is key to development of food alternatives to meat, dairy, beverage and egg sectors.
Alternative meat manufacturers including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Burcon all incorporate plant-based proteins as a critical ingredient in their alternative meat ranges.
Globally, consumers are increasingly turning to these products due to the impacts of climate change, animal welfare concerns and potential health benefits.
With WA producing more than 60% of the world’s Australian sweet lupin, Wide Open’s lupin-protein product has a local and ready source.
In addition to lupin containing high protein, it has the advantages of being non-GMO and having a low glycaemic index.
“Wide Open is now in a first mover advantage to harness lupin protein in the formulation of plant-based alternative meat, eggs, diary and gluten-free products,” the company stated.