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Wide varieties of vegetable raw materials

HMEC for high-grade meat substitutes

Plant-based products are in demand for many reasons. Some people want to reduce the amount of meat they consume or completely cut it out for ethical reasons. Others see tofu and similar products as a useful addition to their diet. For a long time, tofu was the only alternative to meat. However, the structure and strong unique taste of soybean curd is very different from the desired “meat taste experience”. By using extrusion technology today it is possible to produce meat-like products that have a fibrous, meaty structure resulting in flavor and texture profiles similar to chicken, pork, beef or even fish.

Coperion has worked together with the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL), Quakenbrück, Germany, for quite some time. One focus of the cooperation is the further development of high-moisture extrusion cooking of textured protein concentrate into a vegetarian meat substitute. Within this process the moisture content exceeds 50% (up to 70% in individual cases), which is comparable with the moisture content of lean meat. Developed up to production levels in the meantime, this high-moisture extrusion cooking process can be used for the production of meat substitutes featuring desirable sensory properties from raw plant materials with high protein content such as wheat, soy, pea and lupine flours protein concentrate. Decisive factors here are the process of protein denaturation in the extruder and the control of the downstream cooling and fibrillation process in the special cooling die, the length of which may considerably exceed that of the extruder process section.

This high amount of water is added to the vegetable protein directly after the feeding into the extruder. Further ingredients, such as minerals, fibers and flavors, can be added during the extrusion process. The substitute obtained through extrusion are semi-finished products that are then subsequently processed into different end products, typical examples are fried nuggets, marinated chunks or salad toppings – all completely vegetarian but with a tasty meat flavor. The combination of vegetable and animal proteins (meat, poultry, fish, etc.) as starting materials is likewise possible with high-moisture extrusion cooking.

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