Oats may join $8 billion plant protein market

Consumers looking for a substitute to meat and dairy have turned to soybeans and peas, but oats have unique benefits

BANFF, Alta. — Oats could be part of the plant based protein trend.

University of Alberta researcher Lingyun Chen has been working on extracting protein from grains, and has found oats could join soybeans and peas as a substitute for meat, eggs and dairy products.

Western countries such as Canada will be consuming more plant based protein in the future, said Chen, who holds the Canada Research Chair in plant protein, structure function and nutraceuticals.

“We will have more plant based protein, and we will have less animal based protein,” she said at the Prairie Oat Growers Association annual meeting in Banff Dec. 7.

“The reason behind that is health and wellness.”

Consumers know they need more fibre to reduce their risk of chronic diseases.

Others cite sustainability as the reason for selecting plants over meat and dairy because they use fewer resources than livestock.

The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization says the plant based protein market is worth more than $8 billion and is expected to grow at an annual rate of nearly six percent.

Most people are familiar with soy based products.

“Soya alone is not sufficient to meet the ever growing market requirement for plant based protein,” she said.

Soy protein may also be genetically modified, which opens an opportunity for non-genetically modified products such as oats.

It is all non-allergenic, she added.

“Oat protein is tolerated by the majority of people who are suffering from celiac disease,” she said.

Besides meat substitutes, there is increasing interest in replacing dairy products with beverages, yogurt and ice cream made from soybeans, almonds and oats.

Mayonnaise without eggs uses peas as a substitute, and texturized soy protein can simulate lean meat to make veggie burgers and wieners.

Many of these products are al-ready available in grocery stores, and companies such as Ingredion Inc. are major plant protein suppliers that turns plants into ingredients for food, drinks, brewing and pharmaceutical uses.

Chen’s research looks at different crops such as oats to develop proteins for a range of common products.

Oat protein is comparable to some pea varieties and has a neutral flavour, which means it can be used in beverages or as ingredients.

It is also elastic and springy, which means it can hold ingredients together, allowing it to work well as a meat binder. It is almost as strong as egg whites and could be a good ingredient substitute in baked goods. It also has good water holding capacity.

Oat protein’s gelling quality could be converted into tiny capsules to carry other products such as probiotics in yogurt.

They could have a health benefit when they enter the stomach rather than being destroyed by stomach acid.

The National Institute of Health in the United States published a paper this past July outlining available protein sources and their place in the future.

You can find that paper here.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com.

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