Healthier lifestyle

Fascinating: Aligning new crops to human needs

Food chains are usually considered from the perspective of farmer to plate or soil to plate. Fascinating turns this around: plant-based food products are developed and crops are selected based on human needs to ensure that they fit within a sustainable and well-balanced diet. In this fourth article in the series on Fascinating, we take a closer look at the development of new protein crops and their applications from a nutritional perspective. Harm van Baar (Manager of Nutrition and Health) and Andries Olie (Senior Manager of Food, Health and Sustainability) at the Cosun Nutrition Center explain the role of the Cosun Nutrition Center in Fascinating.
07 April 2023

Nutritionally responsible

Harm van Baar is directly involved in Fascinating from the Cosun Nutrition Center and is responsible for Ambition 1: A healthy and well-balanced diet (Dutch content). Harm explains, “As the name suggests, our focus as part of Ambition 1 of Fascinating is on nutritional aspects. We assess the project applications submitted to Fascinating from a nutritional perspective and make the necessary adjustments.” Andries adds, “In other words, we examine Fascinating through a nutritional lens.” The recommendations given by the Cosun Nutrition Center within Fascinating are always based on scientific research. Andries continues, “An important prerequisite for us is that the scientific consensus is a decisive factor. At the Cosun Nutrition Center, we also have a scientific committee that advises and supports our scientific activities and communication. This enables us to secure the scientific validation of the Cosun Nutrition Center.”

Well-balanced proteins

One of the crops that is being examined within Fascinating is the fava bean. Andries explains, “It’s a great crops that falls within the scope of sustainable farming because these protein-rich beans require little artificial fertiliser due to the nitrogen-fixing capacity of the plants, which also leave a considerable amount of nitrogen in the soil. And fava beans require relatively little water.” They also see opportunities in potato protein. “Recent studies show that potato protein is of exceptional quality. Project partner Avebe within Fascinating is focusing on this protein, which has the potential to create opportunities in the future,” says Andries.

New functional proteins

Apart from being a source of protein, the fava bean can also be used as a functional ingredient. For example, Cosun Protein has developed the Fava Protein Isolate (Tendra®), an emulsifier that can be used to replace milk protein in ice cream or chicken egg protein in mayonnaise. Since the fava bean is also an excellent source of numerous essential amino acids, an incidental effect may also be to improve the protein quality of a product. This is necessary because many meat and dairy alternatives in the market are nutritionally suboptimal. But it is important to combine fava bean protein with plant-based protein sources containing those amino acids that are in lower concentrations in the fava bean (methionine, cysteine and tryptophan).

Andries comments, “Another great example is Fidesse®, which is extracted from beet pulp. This high-fibre, low-calorie ingredient provides texture and juiciness in plant-based alternatives like vegan burgers and increases the fibre content. In other words, new ingredients can contribute to a healthier and more plant-based diet.”

Value from crop to end product

Andries considers it a tremendous advantage that every partner within Fascinating contributes specific expertise. “Fascinating examines how you can grow and process new protein crops in a sustainable fashion. You need each other’s expertise in order to arrive at the best possible result. The different partners offer for instance, specific agronomic or process technology knowledge.” Harm adds, “At the Cosun Nutrition Center, we explore how the new crops align to human needs from a nutritional perspective.” Andries says, “Together we can make an important contribution to the protein transition that is the focus at Cosun, with future-proof cultivation of crops that can be produced and processed closer to the end user.”

Harm van Baar
We assess the project applications submitted to ‘Fascinating’ from a nutritional perspective and make the necessary adjustments”
Harm van Baar
Manager of Nutrition and Health at Cosun Nutrition Center

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