Serving up healthy plant-based food research with new flavour facility

pulses image - chickpeas, lentils, beans

Pulses, including lentils, chickpeas and beans.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham and University of Adelaide have joined forces to launch a new international food flavour facility to improve the taste of sustainable, healthy, plant-based food and ingredients.

The new $2.5 million facility at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in South Australia, will expand the University of Nottingham’s International Flavour Research Centre (IFRC), and is supported by a major investment by v2food, a global leader in plant-based alternatives to meat.

The facility will bring together world-class scientists across flavour chemistry, food and agriculture, under the one roof, to take on the challenge of getting more sustainable, healthy, plant-based food into people’s diet.

“We are excited to be part of this global approach to the challenge of producing food that is healthy, delicious and is part of the solution to a more sustainable approach to feeding future populations.”Professor Rachel Burton, Head of Department of Food Science at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

The research team, which will include a new post-doctoral and PhD position, will use innovative technologies and flavour chemistry techniques to help food manufacturers develop new sustainable products that are tasty and consumers will enjoy. This includes alternative proteins, meat free substitutes and healthier versions of existing plant-based products.

Professor of Food Chemistry and academic lead for the International Flavour Research Centre, Ian Fisk said: “Due to the globally interconnected nature of our food supply chain, we need to work together to identify sustainable alternatives in our diet to ensure a safe, reliable supply of high-quality nutritional foods that consumers enjoy.

Sustainable healthy diets require a rethink of food ingredients and crops, new agricultural and food production processes and novel packaging systems and new routes to market.

“Ultimately this is how we go about a step change for diets and more sustainable eating habits.”

Professor Rachel Burton, Head of Department of Food Science at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said: “The initiative will expand the research capability at our Waite campus and enable us to work on new and interesting projects in flavour chemistry and sustainability.

“We are excited to be part of this global approach to the challenge of producing food that is healthy, delicious and is part of the solution to a more sustainable approach to feeding future populations.”

The new laboratories will house the latest flavour chemistry tools with a range of bespoke interfaces to track flavour development and understand the role of food ingredients in flavour perception.

One of the cutting-edge analytical tools that will be used in the research is the MS-Nose, developed in the Nottingham laboratory. The MS-Nose is a high end analytical technique that acts like an artificial nose, allowing real-time measurement of aromas while you are eating.

Professor Fisk said: “Flavour is a combination of the aroma (smell), and the taste of a food. When you interchange food ingredients or materials such as reducing fat, sugar and salt or replacing meat proteins with plant proteins, there are a series of highly complex flavour questions that need to be answered.\

“These include how to ensure that nutritious plant-based meat alternatives generate an equally appealing flavour during cooking, and how to ensure that when part of a complete meal, they are a viable alternative for those who regularly consume meat.

“These are some of the challenges we will be exploring within our team.”

Major industry partner Nick Hazell, CEO of v2food said: We’re delighted to be partnering with globally recognised researchers with a wealth of expertise to develop our next generation of tasty, sustainable and healthy plant protein products.

“Our leadership and development team are looking forward to working closely with the Centre to accelerate knowledge creation, new product development, and advance the quality of delicious, nutritious v2food.”

The International Flavour Research Centre is funded by v2food, the University of Adelaide, University of Nottingham and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

About the University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide Sports University of the Year twice in three years, most recently in 2021. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

About v2food

v2food is an innovative Australian company committed to making delicious food that is good for you and good for the planet. Developed with over 100 years of CSIRO food and science research and with powerful collaborations within the food industry, v2food will play a pivotal role in changing the way we feed the growing global population sustainably.

Recognising that there is a need for a version 2 of the food system, v2food is developing a range of plant-based meat products that taste great for all consumers. Working with the Australian agriculture sector, v2food is part of the growth of a new $6bn+ industry in Australia and a major exporter throughout the world as part of the goal to feed 10 billion people by 2050.

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