Apetit develops first-of-its-kind rapeseed protein: ‘We are bringing to the market a vegetable protein that was inaccessible before’

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Apetit has received a positive opinion from EFSA on its new ingredient - BlackGrain / GettyImages-Smileus
Apetit has received a positive opinion from EFSA on its new ingredient - BlackGrain / GettyImages-Smileus

Related tags: Rapeseed oil, plant-based, Fibre, Novel food

Avena Nordic Grain, part of Finnish food industry group Apetit, has developed a new, sustainable, plant-protein-fibre ingredient: BlackGrain from Yellow Fields. FoodNavigator learns more about the unique ingredient’s nutritional and functional characteristics.

BlackGrain from Yellow Fields is a rapeseed-based plant protein and fibre powder. Its development is the result of ‘intensive research and product innovation with the most advanced technologies’, R&D manager Kaisu Riihinen told this publication.

Avena’s R&D team have been working on the ingredient since 2017. BlackGrain is made from oil seed expellers – which are currently primarily used in animal feed applications. 

“Oil seed expeller is an existing, nutrient-rich raw ingredient,”​ Riihinen explained. “However, this product was not suitable for human consumption, until we developed BlackGrain from Yellow Fields. We are bringing to the market a vegetable protein that was inaccessible before.”

It is important to leverage resources like oil seed expellers in human nutrition because the growing global population – forecast to reach 9.7bn by 2050 – will require food production to increase by around 60%, according to estimates from the World Resources Institute. This increase in production must be achieved within finite planetary boundaries.

“Trends predict that our population will continue its growth and more food will be needed. The choice of food is relevant when our natural resources are limited. Using oil seed expeller for human consumption, rather than for animal nutrition, is an innovative way to take advantage of a nutritious product, to reduce the length of the food chain and to reduce the amount of land and water actually used to produce animal protein.

"Off course, digestibility and bioavailability of plant protein is lower than meat protein, therefore, more plant protein from various sources is required as part of diet. Yet, BlackGrain from Yellow Fields is environmentally and nutritionally a responsible option,”​ Riihinen elaborated.

Positive nutrition and functionality

According to Apetit, BlackGrain offers a number of nutritional benefits that product formulators will be able to leverage. It is high in protein and fibre. BlackGrain also contains the full spectrum of amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids. The healthy oils in BlackGrain are naturally encapsulated in the cell structures. 

“BlackGrain is a three-in-one combination of plant protein (33-43%), dietary fibre (33-43%) and encapsulated rapeseed oil (14.22%). BlackGrain consists of a full range of all essential amino acids,”​ Riihinen revealed.

Rapeseed expellers are also ‘rich sources’ of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.

“BlackGrain is an ingredient that delivers positive nutrition to food application. It is a great alternative source of fibre and protein for a wide variety of food applications, additionally, it is gluten free and legume free. It provides a solution to gluten-free products in matters of protein and insoluble fibre, where the biggest challenge lays for this type of products,”​ Riihinen observed.  

BlackGrain from Yellow Fields
BlackGrain From Yellow Fields / Pic: Appetit

The unique ingredient is described as ‘dark in colour and mild in taste’. Apetit suggested it can be ‘easily flavoured’ in different ways depending on the need. BlackGrain works especially well with grains, pea protein and starch, the company noted.

High water-absorption means it can be used as a texturiser in some formulations, Riihinen added.

“BlackGrain is a coarse and dark brown material that beside the nutritional value it provides a high water absorption [that can] assist in the extrusion process of texturized vegetable proteins (TVP). 

“Due to its physical characteristics, it mixes well with dry ingredients, for example with flours for baking of crunchy bites and dark breads, or in TVP from pea and fava bean. Its water absorption capacity enhances the moist in the product, the texture of extruded products and its yield.”

BlackGrain receives EFSA approval

The company has developed a patent-protected process that allows it to bring rapeseed expeller into the world of human nutrition by reducing components of rapeseed that can be harmful if consumed in large quantities.

“The patented processing method is tailored to reduce high contents of antinutrients typical to rapeseed. Content of phytate is reduced to the nutritionally relevant levels found in cereals and pulses. Glucosinolates are reduced to a safe level for human consumption,”​ Riihinen explained.

The European Food Safety Authority concurs that BlackGrain is safe to enter the human food chain.

Apetit received a positive opinion from EFSA earlier this month as part of its Novel Food application process. EFSA had previously deemed the use of rapeseed protein powder to be safe when the content of antinutrients typical to rapeseed, and harmful in large quantities, is low.

The Novel Food proposal will now move forward to the European Commission, which is expected to make its decision regarding the authorisation by the beginning of 2021.

“Favourable opinion means that BlackGrain from Yellow Fields has been assessed safe by the authority. This opinion from EFSA is a positive and significant waypoint on this journey. We will continue taking steps forward in developing new BlackGrain rapeseed ingredients,”​ Riihinen, who’s in charge of ingredient development, noted.

“We’ve continued development in the second phase of the project, and our goal is to develop new ingredients based on the original ingredient with a customer-oriented approach.”

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