Plant protein-based alternatives of reconstructed meat: Science, technology, and challenges

Elsevier, Trends in Food Science & Technology, Volume 102, August 2020, Pages 51-61
Lei Shaa, Youling L. Xiong

Plant-based meat alternatives are developed to address consumer demands and sustainability of future food supply, and the market has grown exponentially in recent years. Although progresses have been made to construct plant protein-based fibers organoleptically comparable to a whole-muscle cut, it remains challenging to reproduce the hierarchical organization of muscle tissue known to contribute to the overall sensory profile. For now, the market strategies are largely focused on restructured or formed meat mimeticks.

Scope and approaches
Literature search and supermarket surveys are conducted to identify processing technologies, product formulations, and the chemistry and functionality of various additives applied in meat alternatives production. Comparisons are made between muscle and legume proteins to elucidate disparities in macroscopic aggregation properties that may be greatly diminished through fabrication and ingredient innovation. Due to the highly formulated and processed nature, the nutrition, health, and safety of plant-based meat alternatives are analyzed.

Key findings and conclusion
Thermoextrusion is found to be the principal reconstructuring technique for meat-like fiber synthesis from plant proteins. Soy and pea proteins, gluten, and polysaccharides are the major building blocks. Through physicochemical interactions, plant proteins are able to aggregate into particles and anisotropic fibrils to impart meat-like texture and mouthfeel. Vegetable oil blends and spices are used to modify the texture and flavor; pigments are added to impart color; vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and antimicrobials are incorporated to boost nutrition and improve shelf-life. Opportunities exist to overcome technology obstacles and nutrition and safety challenges in further developing the alternatives market.