Getting smart about the future of protein


Verena Wiederkehr, ProVeg’s International head of Food Industry & Retail, was recently interviewed by Andreas Menn from WirtschaftsWoche, the leading German business publication about the EU-funded Smart Protein research project and developments in the alternative protein sector. Here is a lightly edited extract from the interview. The full article was published in German and is available on the WirtschaftsWoche website.

You have just started one of the largest EU-funded plant-based research projects, in partnership with numerous research institutes and companies, with the aim of developing smart proteins. What is the project about?

Due to the fact that our current protein sources are not sustainable, we need to radically rethink the entire protein value chain. Over the next four years, we will develop highly innovative, protein-rich food products such as meat, fish, and cheese from plant-based raw materials. The goal is to create products that can be produced commercially and that are better for the environment, our health, and the climate.

Is that a realistic goal?

Convincing versions of vegan burgers and sausages are already on supermarket shelves. Milk alternatives made from rice or oats are now also part of the standard range in supermarkets and discounters. But this is only the beginning – we see great potential in alternatives to fish fillets, for example.

And what’s next?

Cream, curd, and butter from plant-based materials are the next challenge. There is an even greater need to catch up with cheese. Alternative cheese products today consist mainly of coconut oil and starch. They have a poor nutrient profile and are not yet convincing in terms of taste and texture. If you can crack the cheese code, you can assume that you are at the forefront of the food industry of the future.