04.05.2023 by Aileen Sammler

Extrusion and Analytics as Key Factors in the Successful Product Development of Plant-Based Food

The world population is steadily growing, and so is the challenge for the food industry to secure its food supply in a sustainable manner. Food made from alternative protein sources, including plant-based ones, is projected to be an essential part of the future global food supply.

The Trend: Plant-Based Food

More and more people are choosing plant-based diets for various reasons having to do with health benefits, environmental awareness, animal welfare and/or ethical considerations. In response to this high demand, the plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy products, eggs and other animal products are becoming increasingly diverse and are now available in many supermarkets and restaurants.

In order to produce high-quality output, it is essential to characterize the properties of the raw materials and have comprehensive knowledge about the processing of meat analogues. A raw material analysis can ensure that manufactured output has the properties required for producing high-quality and safe food.


How to Determine the Ideal Properties of Plant-Based Raw Materials

Plant-based raw materials have various properties, such as taste, aroma, texture, nutrient content, and durability, which can affect their quality and suitability for food production.

The wet extrusion process (high-moisture extrusion) is generally used for the production of meat analogues. The protein mass is initially heated with additives and water in a twin-screw extruder and mechanically stressed (sheared) by rotating screws. At an elevated temperature, the proteins denature, and starchy additives become pasty. The mass is then pushed through a cooling nozzle, resulting in a meat-like, fibrous texture.

To achieve optimal results, many process parameters – which need to be adjusted for each new recipe – must interact. These include energy input (thermal and mechanical), screw geometry, screw speed, nozzle geometry, and the consistency of the dough-like mass. The suitable temperature range can be estimated by means of differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), which provides information about the temperature at which the knotty structure of the protein unfolds (denaturation). Information about the viscosity and the viscoelastic properties of the extrudate is obtained by rheometry.


Figure: Wet extrusion of meat substitute with the Brabender TwinLab-F 20/40



A collaboration between Brabender and NETZSCH has existed for several years. Joint seminars have already been conducted on the characterization of rubber and elastomers. In the area of plant-based food, the two companies together offer a broad portfolio of extrusion, thermal analysis and rheology products to meet the challenges and trends of the food industry.

Brabender GmbH & Co. KG offers equipment for measuring and process technology solutions for testing the quality of various raw materials, as well as for the development and optimization of products, formulations, methods, and processes. The company provides a broad range of modular and compact product solutions for rheology and extrusion in the laboratory as well as consulting and expertise for application technology. Among the devices are laboratory mills, laboratory and pilot scale extruders, solutions for viscosity measurement, and measuring instruments specifically tailored to the needs of the bakery industry.

NETZSCH-Gerätebau GmbH is a world leader in a high-tech niche field with measuring instruments for thermal analysis and rheology. The devices are used in laboratories and production facilities to investigate raw materials through finished products in the context of research and development as well as quality assurance. In the area of plant-based foods, thermal analysis methods such as differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetry (TGA) are used to characterize raw material properties such as denaturation temperature, pasting temperature (DSC), or moisture content (TGA). With NETZSCH rheometers, viscosity and the viscoelastic properties of meat analogues are determined.


Figure: DSC curve of a plant-based protein with a protein content of 60%. Sample mass: 23.4 mg. The sample was analyzed in a low-pressure aluminum crucible under nitrogen at a flow rate of 20 mL/min and a heating rate of 10 K/min.

Join the Live Seminar on May 23 and 24 in Duisburg, Germany!

In the two-day, English-speaking seminar with a practice-based portion titled "Plant-Based Foods - Extrusion & Analytics", you will learn about various analysis methods and participate in extrusion experiments. Discuss with on-site experts and get tips on how to find optimal conditions for the production of meat analogues.

We look forward to seeing you!

Further information and registration: Plant-based Food – Extrusion & Analytics as success factors for your product development - NETZSCH Analyzing & Testing