Functional organic ingredients

Potato starch and brown pea protein concentrate offer multiple functionality in food processing

The article was first published in FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE of INNOVATIONS IN FOOD TECHNOLOGY

Development and growth of the organic and plant-based food markets all around the world is accelerating due to several trends related to health, environment and ethics. However consumers now expect plant based products to be as good tasting and looking, convenient and with as long shelf-life as mainstream products even when they are free from additives, ingredients of animal origin and preferably organic. This is challenging food developers and ingredient producers to find new innovative solutions and meet both the technological challenges and consumer expectations.

The oldest parts of Aloja Starkelsen buildings were built in the 1930’s by the farmer’s cooperative. The most recent parts have been constructed in 2019. The company is in constant development and expansion.

For more than ten years the company Aloja Starkelsen has developed solutions for new organic food product development under the brand by using the unique properties of native potato starch. From a chemical point of view potato starch contains the same two molecules as most other starches – amylose and amylopectin. But the unique macrostructure of potato starch, called granules, results in totally different behavior in water during mixing and heating steps. Potato starch swells already below 60 ̊C and reaches its maximum viscosity already at 75 ̊C, when cereal starches just start to swell. On top of that it creates a viscosity that is several times higher than other starches. This property comes from nature, where besides the main function of any starch to convert CO2, water and sun energy into starch which is then used as energy for sprouting and starting to grow in the spring, potato starch together with potato fiber and protein have the vital function of binding and keeping in water in the potato during winter time. Potatoes contain more than 70% of water and that is vital to retain the ability to sprout in the spring.

With Organic Potato Starch you can develop excellent breadings that stay crispy for a long time due to the moisture barrier functionality of potato starch. You can replace the rest of any wheat based flours with organic brown pea or fava bean flour and make a gluten-free breading. The Brown Pea Protein Concentrate works perfectly as an egg replacement in any emulsion sauces like the one used in this potato salad.

Potato starch offers plenty of possibilities to manage water binding, viscosity creation and moisture migration in bakery products. For example, by replacing 10-15% of wheat flour in butter cookies or waffles with potato starch you can create a product that remain crispy in an open package for several days. Potato starch can be used also as a gelling agent in confectionary or help to create gellified texture in various other products. Due to very neutral taste profile, transparent gel and very long shelf life potato starch can be very useful as a bulking and anticaking ingredient in dry products such as spice blends or ready to eat products as icing sugar, shredded cheese or in frozen berries. Also, in instant dry mixed products or gluten-free doughs pregel potato starch will give good viscosity in cold water without heating steps.

In organic production there are very limited possibilities to modify starches at the starch production site (chemical modification is not allowed in organics), but the unique properties of potato starch give you possibilities to obtain the required properties from native starch during your own food manufacturing process, as it is swelling, dissolving or gellifying at temperatures that are normal in food processing. We have a great deal of experience about this and are ready to share it with you in your new product developments.

Proteins do what native starches cannot

Despite the fact that potato starch can solve so many challenges in food processing there are some where other solutions are needed. For example, it is not possible to create plant based organic emulsifiers that have the full body mouth feel of milk or egg proteins based on starches. Or to create a foaming effect with a nice mouthfeel in ice cream, milk free desserts or egg and gelatin free confectionery. Besides functionality we expect that ingredients also provide excellent nutritional value. Not only increased content of valuable proteins and reduced sugar and fat levels, but also to retain natural micronutrients and dietary fibers in the final product.

In this delicious vegan gluten-free Organic Muffin we have replaced eggs with Organic Brown Pea Protein Concentrate (declared as ”Pea flour”), replaced wheat flour with Organic Fava Bean flour and used Organic Potato Starch for crispiness and shelf life of the Muffin. We also used Organic Baking Powder where Potato Starch acts as a functional carrier preventing the dough from collapsing and we have sprinkled the Muffin with Organic Vanilla Sugar where Potato Starch acts as anti-caking agent.

To get all those properties in one ingredient would be impossible without help from nature. Everything starts with the extraordinary crop of brown peas, which is an ancient leguminous crop that has been grown before yellow and green peas all over Europe. 100-150 years ago, new crops of modern peas took over European fields, and only in Latvia we have kept this ancient crop alive. Even more, in Latvia brown peas are the number one traditional dish and several new varieties have been bred to fit this ancient crop to modern organic agriculture needs. There are different names for brown peas in different languages: grey peas, field peas, feed peas and even maple peas. Those names origin is from medieval times when brown peas where grown all over Europe. Brown peas are an ancient crop of peas similar to spelt in cereals. We have chosen to use the name “Brown Peas” as the varieties we use clearly have a brown hull.

Brown Peas is an ancient type of Peas (Pisum sativum) that is still cultivated in Latvia.

The main advantage of brown peas is its more mild taste profile compared to yellow or green peas, but at the same time similar or even higher protein content. The core of brown peas is light yellowish so with dehulling the brown color and any bitter taste is lost. After cooking or other sufficient heat treatment dehulled peas have a nice nutty and slightly sweet taste

This naturally nice taste has been tested by centuries of consuming it in traditional dishes. It allows a more gentle extraction of protein, that does not compromise its functionality. After very fine milling we separate pea flour with high protein content (more than 50%) with precise air flow from flour with approximately 20% protein content. With this dry separation and no heat or acid treatment we ensure that the protein functionality is not affected. In contrast when using wet separation – when producing protein isolates – you can obtain higher protein content by washing away starch and other substances including majority of micronutrients. However at the same time as you extract protein from the water phase you need to use some acids and heat treatments that denaturates protein to some extent and reduces its technical functionality. Brown pea protein concentrate can be compared with fresh eggs in contrast to yellow pea or other protein isolates that are more like boiled eggs. What would you choose to make a mayonnaise or bake a cake?

Organic Brown Pea Protein ConcentrateOrganic Fava Bean Protein ConcentrateOrganic Brown Pea FlourOrganic Fava Bean Flour
Product Code50.0BP60.0FB17.0BP20.0FB
Raw materialOrganic Brown PeasOrganic Fava BeansOrganic Brown PeasOrganic Fava Beans
Protein, %50%60%19%20%
Dietary Fiber, %13%16%8%10%
Starch, %28%20%63%55%
Fat, %4%4,5%1,6%2%

The emulsifying properties of brown pea protein concentrate give a breakthrough opportunity to develop new organic plant-based food products like different emulsion dressings and sauces, egg free bakery and confectionery products and various vegan and/or organic ready- to-eat convenience foods. Brown pea protein concentrate’s emulsifying properties after pasteurization are the same as whole egg powder and much better than most popular other plant- based proteins. A simple laboratory test comparing homogenization of oil in water first with brown pea protein concentrate which has been heat treated in water phase prior to adding oil with second test with whole egg powder and then centrifuging both at 3000 rpm gives you a clear picture of the unique properties of brown pea protein concentrate as egg replacement. The heat treatment of brown pea protein concentrate in water phase is needed not only for functionality reasons but also to cook the flour – which is essentially a raw flour – and create a good taste profile of your product. Using a protein based emulsifying agent also gives you a full body mouth feel in the final product. We have tested various applications and equipment in egg free and milk free developments and reached excellent results with brown pea protein concentrate.

Foaming agents that are available for organic food processing give so different mouthfeel compared to traditional products that it is difficult to create corresponding organic plant-based products. Brown pea protein concentrate provides excellent foaming properties, and allows you to create great vegan ice-cream or chocolate mousse with a full body mouthfeel as if it was based on milk or egg protein. Also in this case sufficient heat treatment of the brown pea protein concentrate is critical in order to open its functionality as a foaming agent and to create a good taste profile and mouthfeel.

Both brown pea protein concentrate, and brown pea starchy flour contain untreated pea protein that is available for any fermentation process by acid dairy bacteria and yeasts. That could be useful in milk free developments of sour drinks, desserts or spreads or in traditional bread or cookies with yeasts or even sourdough including gluten free baking.

The 20% protein flour can replace high protein wheat flours and can be widely used in bakery, snacks and various wheat based or gluten free product developments

Combining Brown Pea protein flours with Fava bean protein flours is very useful to create an even more neutral taste, as the flours mask each other. Very few people have tasted brown peas and fava beans together, and if you can not recognize a taste you can feel it much less. We are producing fava bean protein concentrate and fava bean starchy flour in exactly the same way as products from brown peas.

The nutritional value and amino acids composition of brown pea protein is high and in synergy with cereals it can be improved to soy level. Cereals, such as wheat or rice, are deficient in lysine and rich in Sulphur amino acids. Pulses, such as peas and fava beans, are rich in lysine, and have low content of Sulfur amino acids.

You can declare all these products as pea or fava bean flours – no need to mention protein if you do not want to.

Aloja Starkelsen is a farmers’ owned socially responsible and sustainability driven company with full vertical integration from testing new organic varieties and seed production, organic farming technology development, processing with highest food safety standards, organic foodstuff NPD and consumer education.

Janis Garancs, CEO, M.Sc. in Food Chemistry

Aloja-Starkelsen SIA Ungurpils, Joglas – 2 Rural Territory of Aloja Municipality of Aloja LV 4064

Tel: +371 640 204 60