By Markus Eggenmüller*
The increasing demand for plant-based protein in the last years activated research and industry to find reliable food solutions for the market. Plant proteins have a lower impact on the environment than meat and the industry focusses on protein from cereals, pulses, algae or mushrooms.
Located one hour north of Paris in Amiens, the R&D center IMPROVE supports over 300 food processors worldwide in creating new food solutions to meet consumers’ needs and expectations. In the protein sector, IMPROVE shows expertise in dry processing, wet processing and product characterization regarding composition, invitro digestibility, particle characterization and functional properties. Its product processing portfolio shows a diversified range of raw materials like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, co-products from the food or feed industry, algae, insects and microorganisms. Looking for sustainable production for protein-enriched plant flours, IMPROVE identified dry fractionation to have a huge development potential to produce protein-rich food ingredients (Figure 1).
Multiprocessing System for testing the whole chain of protein enrichment
“IMPROVE is working on a wide range of material for food and feed applications. Our requirement was to get versatile material compatible with food practices”, Mr. Denis Chereau, CEO of IMPROVE, explained. For this reason, he decided to go for the protein shifting process of Hosokawa Alpine that combines the finest milling and high-end air classification to enrich flours from pulses e.g. faba beans, peas or lentils.
His first choice was Hosokawa Alpine, a world market leader in powder processing and key equipment supplier for dry processing, based in Augsburg, Germany with its Multiprocessing System (Figure 2).
It allows research in the complete production process from dehulling the raw seeds, fine milling and finest grinding up to precise air classification of the flour. A ZigZag classifier combined with a Multiprocessing System consisting of a fluidized bed opposed jet mill, a classifier mill, a fine impact mill and an ultrafine high-tech classifier is the veritable allrounder in protein shifting for research and development.
First, the pre-cracked pulses are dehulled at the ZigZag classifier by simple air separation. Then, the dehulled pulses are ground to fine flour e.g. with the fine impact mill UPZ. The key difficulty of dry protein enrichment must be solved in the next two steps: the protein-starch agglomerates in the pulse flour must be separated by impact milling technology without destroying the starch particles. This is possible with the classifier mill ZPS or, for an even more fine top cut, with the air jet mill AFG. With the high-end air classifier ATP, the flour is separated in a fine, protein-rich fraction and a coarse starch-rich fraction. For several products, protein contents up to 65% with 30% yield can be reached without wasting water and consuming less energy.
The small-scale machines can be installed and changed quickly at the system corpus. A wide range of machine equipment e.g. different pin discs, plate beaters, nozzles and classifier wheels make it easy to try different adjustments to find the right processing solution. Because all machines are engineered, machined and assembled by Hosokawa Alpine itself, the Multiprocessing System gives a good indication for later production. For a production scale-up, the test center of Hosokawa Alpine in Augsburg gives the possibility to run tests on bigger machine sizes up to several hundred kgs/h of material throughputs at 3000 sqm (Figure 3).
Connect science and industry for future protein supply Looking into the future, the protein supply will be a challenge that must be solved from both the industry and research. For this reason, collaborations are getting more and more important to interlock science and process engineering. “Hosokawa Alpine is a very professional organization and we are sure that in future IMPROVE & Hosokawa Alpine will continue to work closely in order to well serve our customers and to develop new processes,” Mr. Chereau said. The Multiprocessing System is the matching instrument to find the best sustainable food solution for processors of plant-based protein ingredients (Figure 4).
* Author is Senior Manager New Business Development – Key Accounts Food Division Hosokawa Alpine AG, Augsburg, Germany