According to Food Dive, the numbers show the trend for plant-based proteins growing. Investment firm UBS projects growth to increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion by 2030 and a recent study from DuPont Nutrition and Health found that 52% of US consumers are eating more plant-based foods because they believe it makes them healthier.
Within the plant-based protein world, protein ingredients represent high added value to food products due to their functional properties.
In order to preserve protein’s natural functionalities, the production process must minimize potential denaturation effects induced by thermal, chemical or mechanical stress and prevent carrying natural contamination such as suspended solids, bioburden, fat and antinutritional factors.
The current wet purification process usually includes at least one step of thermal and/or chemical precipitation at iso-electric point to settle the globulins (also known as larger proteins) further recovered by centrifugation. This process creates partial protein denaturation (potential structure modification) that may negatively impact solubilization of final protein powder and other properties like gelation, foaming, water retention, among others.
As an alternative to standard precipitation and centrifuge separators, crossflow microfiltration can purify the raw feed to produce a very clean solution of native proteins. This stream can be further fractionated and/or purified with other membranes (UF/NF/RO) and/or chromatography.
This paper reviews different filtration techniques used in the industry and offers insights into how the process effects the final product.