Creating vegan/gluten-free plant-based meat with a coating that sticks

InnovationStoriesThursday, 21 Mar 2024

Are your plant-based nuggets or plant-based fish products lacking that satisfying crunch? With the growing demand for vegan and gluten-free options, achieving the perfect coating can be a real challenge. Jaap Harkema, Global Segment Manager at Avebe, shares his light how to overcome this challenge. Say goodbye to flimsy  coatings and hello to a real-feel experience!

How to overcome the fragile coating of plant-based meat & fish

‘A business friend recently explained to me that the main thing stopping them from embracing plant-based chicken nuggets is the “fragile coating”. As soon as you bite into them the coating just peels right off. The taste is okay, but the crunch goes missing. It just doesn’t “feel real”.

The truth is, it’s not just my friend who’s been experiencing this issue. For all kinds of plant-based meat alternatives, achieving a crunchy coating that sticks to the substrate can be very challenging. Achieving this with vegan and free-from-allergen labelling is even more difficult.

Finding a way to solve this issue is of course very important for anyone invested in plant-based meat or – fish. Consumers are looking for the real crunchy experience, and increasingly they want it vegan and free-from-allergen labelling.

In this post, we’ll explain why it’s difficult to provide that experience to consumers. We’ll also explore how PerfectaSOL® S 200 —our specialty potato protein — can provide the solution.’

Achieving ‘Real-Feel’ Coatings for Plant-Based Meat Alternatives is Difficult, but Crucial

‘Some important changes are taking place in the plant-based meat and fish world right now. The variety of substrates being used is growing, with dry TVP, HME (high-moisture extrusion), and mycoprotein now being commonly used. There is also a growing demand for gluten-free and vegan (plant-based) meat alternatives.

This adds extra complexity when it comes to achieving the “real” nugget/schnitzel experience that consumers are demanding. To satisfy consumers, coatings of plant-based meat and fish products need to stick to the substrate before, during, and after frying and should be freeze and thaw stable. They should also remain crispy after frying.

Plant-based meat producers have difficulty achieving this, no matter what coating type is applied, be it wheat-based, corn-based or gluten-free flour-based. Especially while also trying to serve the demand for gluten-free and vegan products. (Egg, wheat, and soy-based batters and pre-dusts are usually used to adhere coatings to the substrate. None of these are vegan and gluten-free, and they don’t always stick well after frying either).

By acknowledging these changing consumer demands, and understanding the limitations of commonly used plant-based meat ingredients, it is possible to find solutions here. Thankfully, new and innovative ingredients are being developed that can be used to give consumers what they’re looking for.

One such ingredient is PerfectaSOL® S 200.’

What is PerfectaSOL® S 200?

‘PerfectaSOL® S 200 is a potato protein isolate we’ve developed at Royal Avebe, which forms a strong, irreversible gel upon heating, similar to egg white protein. It is a unique plant protein because it combines this functionality with a high nutritional value, a low ecological footprint, and a free-from-allergen labelling status (according to EU labeling legislation). No other plant-based protein offers all of these advantages.’

How Does PerfectaSOL® S 200 Solve the Coating Issue?

‘The idea of using PerfectaSOL® S 200 to help make plant-based meat coatings stick came about by experimenting with the ingredient. We investigated this idea in our lab, and confirmed that it works using different coating types and substrates. (Wheat-based, cornflake-based, and gluten-free coatings, with plant-based meat and fish products based on mycoprotein or TVP).

To get the best results, PerfectaSOL® S 200 should be used as a pre-dust in combination with a ‘clean label’ potato starch-based batter. The substrate product of choice can simply be dipped in the PerfectaSOL® S 200 powder. Thanks to the powder’s unique gelation properties, doing this provides excellent adhesion even after frying. With the adhesion unaffected by the freeze/thaw cycle.

That crispy, real nugget experience is achieved and maintained. And of course, the resulting product will be egg- and gluten-free, keeping it both vegan and clean label.’

Advantages of Using PerfectaSOL® S 200

‘PerfectaSOL® S 200 is the best pre-dust option available for achieving ‘real-feel’ plant-based meat & fish coatings.

We know this because we’ve experimented with other pre-dust options too. We’ve used egg white, wheat flour, corn starch, other plant proteins like soy and pea. And no pre-dust, as a reference. Egg white powder (non-vegan) was the only other option that made the coating stick sufficiently.’

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Superior adhesion of the coating to plant-based meat & fish alternatives with PerfectaSOL® S 200

‘From our experiments, we’ve found that PerfectaSOL® S 200 offers the following advantages compared to these other options:

  • Superior adhesion when used as a pre-dust.
  • Excellent freeze/thaw stability.
  • Ease of use when used as a pre-dust.
  • Low pick-up %. (2-3 times less than tested alternatives).
  • Highly versatile, as it works well with different coatings and substrates.
  • Facilitates the creation of vegan and gluten-free coated plant-based meat alternatives.
  • Makes the use of egg, wheat, and soy redundant.
  • More sustainable than other proteins.

Keeping Things Real and Crunchy, with all the Right Labels

‘Much like my business friend, more and more consumers today want plant-based meat alternatives that “feel real”.

For products with coatings, consumers need to experience the kind of crunch you get with a regular chicken nugget. They want the coatings to stick in a similar way too. And they want all this to be possible in combination with vegan and free from allergen-labelling.

Achieving all of this in one is impossible with most commonly used batters and pre-dusts. Egg, wheat, and soy-based options simply cannot deliver everything the modern consumer demands.

But PerfectaSOL® S 200 can. The superior adhesion it provides helps to keep things real and crunchy, with all the right labels attached.

It’s the perfect solution for ensuring that plant-based meat alternatives continue to grow in popularity.’

Work with Royal Avebe to Create Your Own Real-Feel Products

At Royal Avebe we love working with our customers to co-create innovative solutions like PerfectaSOL® S 200. If you’re interested in working with us to develop products your customers will really love, feel free to contact our team of experts today.