Globally competitive plant protein based foods from Finland

VTT together with University of Helsinki is supporting the Finnish food industry to develop plant protein products for the international market. The goal is to develop healthy, appealing and sustainable plant-based animal protein alternatives.

Climate change and limited natural resources are challenging food security for the growing population. The protein supply is in this respect the most critical.

Soy and wheat-based products, such as tofu and seitan, still cover a significant portion of the market for plant protein products, but there is room for new products on the fast-growing market as well. The Finnish food industry has already garnered attention by using domestic oats and faba beans as raw materials.

“The Finnish food industry is in a unique position to take the lead in the transition towards a more plant-based food system in-line with the national and European targets. Strong consumer engagement is essential to develop not only sustainable but also appealing products in terms of taste and mouthfeel. That is what we are striving for in the EXPRO project”, says Project Leader Nesli Sözer from VTT.

VTT is leading the EXPRO project that aims to build a food industry ecosystem, i.e. a network that focuses on the development of plant protein products from domestic raw materials. The ecosystem will cover the entire production chain, from raw materials and product development all the way to consumer and market research.

New raw materials and technologies

The Business Finland funded project (total budget EUR 2.1 million for two years) includes various industry partners (Apetit & Avena Nordic Grain, Compass Group Suomi, Fazer, Foodwest, Gold&Green Foods, Lihel, Raisio, Ultima and West Mills) covering the value chain and will kick-start in June 2020.

By joining the forces of companies and research institutes, the ecosystem will strengthen its position in the global plant protein market by valorising Finnish crops like faba beans, rapeseed and cereals, e.g. oats, into comprehensive use in food products. The aim is also to utilise combined wet extrusion and bioprocessing technologies to modify both taste and texture, which is a novel approach.

“Our mission is to leverage the plant-based product exports to new levels via innovations developed in EXPRO. Increased export potential for Finnish food industry can be seen in plant-based meat alternatives and other foods, in ingredients and also in technology licencing”, says Project Manager Kaisu Honkapää from VTT.