Sensory and chemical scientists at the University of Queensland (UQ) are researching new improvements to the taste and nutrition profiles of  plant-based meat. The researchers have teamed up as part of a three-year Australian Research Council project with Motif FoodWorks Inc., a U.S.-based food technology company.

Motif FoodWorks is working with the UQ team to bring the principles of  physics to studying the sensory aspects of eating. “This project will unlock the secrets of food to help us design plant-based options that live up to the taste and texture expectations of consumers,” Motif FoodWorks head of Food Science Dr Stefan Baier told Food & Beverage Industry News.

Organoleptic qualities like taste, texture, mouthfeel and smell combined are primary drivers for consumers when considering a meat-free option, according to Professor Jason Stokes of University of Queensland’s School of Chemical Engineering.

“It’s not just the taste, it has to be the texture as well, so the team wanted to understand the mechanics that occur during eating and stimulate them in a laboratory,” Stokes said.   

“People want to continue to eat meat but supplement their diet with a plant-based protein for environmental and sustainable reasons. They’ve started to demand quite a bit from the product and want it to have the same characteristics as a normal meat experience, while also being healthy.”

As more consumers choose plant-based meats, Professor Stokes told ABC Rural that Australian farmers stand to reap the rewards of the growing plant-based protein market.  “There’s different types of proteins emerging from crop sciences and agriculture, and we need to be able to work out how can we target those different proteins to lead to better outcomes for things like burgers,” he explained.

“I think it’s actually quite exciting because it’s actually giving a new start-up culture in this space, and that should lead to new crops and new agricultural targets,” he said. “In Australia, I think it will open up opportunities.”

READ MORE:Food tech company and UQ aim to “meat” consumer demands [Food & Beverage Industry News] and How can plant-based burgers be made to taste exactly like meat? Scientists try to crack the code [ABC]

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