CANADA – Scientists from the University of Alberta have made a significant stride in the world of food science by unveiling a high-protein and plant-based alternative to gelatin.

This innovation is poised to transform the food industry by offering a sustainable and cruelty-free substitute for gelatin, which is commonly derived from animal collagen.

Gelatin, a widely used ingredient in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries, is typically obtained by boiling animal bones, cartilage, and skin, which has raised concerns about animal welfare and environmental impact.

However, a team of researchers from the Department of Food Science at the University of Alberta has successfully addressed these concerns with their new breakthrough.

Drawing inspiration from the structure and properties of natural plant materials, the researchers developed a method to extract proteins from pea plant sources and modify their properties to closely mimic those of gelatin.

The resulting plant-based alternative possesses similar gelling, binding, and emulsifying capabilities, making it a versatile ingredient for a wide range of applications.

The novel product, which is patent-pending, reportedly has a higher protein content than existing plant-based gelatin substitutes but can also change easily from liquid to gel – and back again.

The impact of this discovery is expected to reverberate across various industries. In the food sector, the plant-based gelatin substitute can be utilized in confectionery products like gummies and marshmallows, as well as in dairy alternatives like yogurts and cream-based desserts.

The pharmaceutical industry can explore its potential in encapsulating medicines, while cosmetic companies can incorporate it into skincare products that require a gel-like consistency.

As the global demand for plant-based and cruelty-free products continues to rise, the emergence of this alternative to gelatin could not be timelier.

With consumers increasingly conscious of the environmental and ethical aspects of their choices, businesses that adopt this innovation may gain a competitive edge in the market.

“There is a huge global market for a plant-based gelatin substitute right now.”

“We have more and more vegans and vegetarians who want an alternative. The growing Muslim population needs Halal options, and there’s also increased interest in plant-based food as part of a more sustainable food system,” said Dr. Chen in an article from Natural Products Canada.

Dr. Chen is reportedly already collaborating with a multinational leader in plant-based ingredients, using Canadian-grown peas as the raw material.

The project has also received US$78,430 from NPC to help evaluate how the pea protein-based gelatin substitute performs in real-food applications, and to prove its ability to scale up.

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