Bühler partners with German Institute of Food Technologies, exploring sustainable ranges

Swiss-based Bühler industry technology and solutions group has agreed a key partnership with the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL) for work on product series including sustainable ranges with confectionery and snacks potential, reports Neill Barston.

As the Uzwil-headquartered company explained to Confectionery Production, the deal will explore a number of market segments, focused on alternative protein-based products with a lower environmental impact.

This includes initial food science investigation with the DIL group, an independent non-profit research group, into meat alternatives, but as previously reported, the confectionery and snacks sector is increasingly realising the potential for new product development of plant-based ingredients.

According to international research highlighted by the company, by 2050, in order to meet the needs of the world’s growing population, we will have to produce more food from 35% less agricultural land. With an additional 250 million metric tons of protein required per year, the pressure on alternatives to animal-based proteins is mounting. Given the environmental impact of the current system, there is growing consensus that the food industry must change course immediately.

Consequently, Bühler noted that such changes are already underway in many parts of the food value chain, but to drive it faster, partnerships are essential. Announcing a new strategic partnership between Bühler AG and DIL, Ian Roberts, Chief Technology Officer, Bühler (below), said: “If we are to feed 10 billion people in 2050 and if we are to be able to do this and mitigate the climate change increase that we currently see, we need to build strong partnerships with purpose and we need to build those in areas where we can drive major impact.”

Christoph Naef, Head of Human Nutrition at Bühler Group (pictured on the right of the main image, alongside Volker Heinz, CEO of DIL, left signing the agreement), explained the full potential of the possibilities for developing product ranges into wider segments including snacks and confectionery.

He said: “This is just the start of our joint journey in the area of future of food. We can certainly see ourselves developing unique and sustainable solutions for the confectionery and snacks application markets in the course of this partnership. There are no limits to the applications here.”

New sustainable plant-based proteins have significantly less environmental impact, less land use, and a lower CO2 footprint than the animal meat value chain. It is therefore essential to explore and identify alternative and underused sources of protein and develop efficient technologies to convert these into attractive, marketable products. Consumer demand for sustainable and healthy food products has been growing in recent years, underlining the opportunity for the food industry to make a positive impact.

The partnership to accelerate research and the development of new solutions for more sustainable protein production comes at a critical time, according to Volker Heinz, Director and CEO, DIL: “Within our planetary boundaries, there is no room for a further expansion of animal protein and fat production,” he says.

Extrusion process

As Bühler noted, a key technology to unlock this opportunity is the extrusion process. Highly versatile, it enables the formation of texturised proteins with different structures from different raw materials. High moisture extrusion enables the conversion of plant proteins into food products with textures similar to meat. It is a technology in which Bühler leads the market.

“With Bühler’s expertise in extrusion, but also in other engineering disciplines, such as milling, plant proteins, and powder handlings, we will be able to provide new and customised solutions for our clients and for the rapidly changing market,” says Volker Lammers, Head of Research Platform Process Engineering, DIL. “With Bühler, we have a competent partner along the full protein value chain.”

The DIL campus in Quakenbrück, Germany, provides state-of-the-art food safety labs, pilot plants and research capabilities. Over 200 scientists and technologists from diverse fields of expertise collaborate with a growing number of spin-off and start-up enterprises to develop solutions that improve food safety and quality.

“With DIL, we have found a great partner who can provide a food grade test and production lab combined with extensive analytical services,” adds Christoph Näf, Head of Business Unit Human Nutrition, Bühler. The partnership will create a platform to support start-ups, existing customers, and future partners to develop new end products and generate synergies.

Experts join forces for positive change

“We continuously try to achieve a better understanding of the structure and functionality of foods, which we consider is the key to innovative solutions for food processing,” says Volker Heinz, Director and CEO, DIL. “On this track, we are excited to have Bühler as a partner on our side. Together we will explore the many possibilities of technological interventions to get our food system on the track towards a sustainable future.

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