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Multi-State Project to Clear Bottlenecks for Soy-Based Foods

Purdue partners with leading food science colleges on a $1.1M research project

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A one-year Purdue University Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute (FEMI) project to connect small- and mid-scale soy-based products processors began in October with a $1.1 million United Soybean Board (USB) award.

Conceived from a nationwide discussion surrounding the soybean value chain, the project is co-funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit organization that supports research activities focused on addressing key agriculture problems.

Critical need for soy supply chain partnerships

“There was a critical need to help the soybean farmers and soy processors,” said project leader Dharmendra Mishra, associate professor and director of FEMI. “Our project proposes to solve the bottleneck of small- and medium-scale processing and facilitate the scale-up of identity preserved (IP) systems through our multistate team. Our project fits in the overall strategic vision of the connectivity for soy users to the market.”

In partnership with the University of Arkansas and the University of Missouri, the project will focus on end-product quality and sensory assessments, phenotyping for compositional traits in novel value-added applications and trials to eliminate pressure on small- to medium-scale industry sectors.

Project team member Senay Simsek, Purdue department head and professor of food science, said this type of work necessitates cooperation and coordinated endeavors with interdisciplinary researchers and scientists from other institutions.

Partnering with the University of Arkansas allows researchers to conduct comprehensive studies to develop processes and products for emerging food ingredients while enabling a circular economy of resilient food systems.

The University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) is ranked among the top 15 programs worldwide for animal and plant science research and, along with Purdue, is part of the North Central Research Association, a group of institutions leading the way in agriculture bioscience research.

Food labs help soy products reach potential

The global demand for soy protein isolate/concentrate is expected to increase 80-fold, while global meat substitute market is expected to be worth $140 billion by 2029, Mishra said.

Purdue’s Skidmore Sales and Distributing Food Product Development Laboratory and Pilot Plant will allow stakeholders to collaborate and develop new soy-based products using state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to advance initiatives in plant-powered protein, oil refinement, powders and other value-added products.

Soybeans produce the highest protein yields per unit area compared to all other plant-based sources, and are the most commonly found ingredient in plant-based meats, according to Nestle Professional. Other top meat alternative food ingredients include peas, beans, mushrooms, mung beans, or wheat gluten — also known as seitan.

But flavor quality issues and functionality have hindered utilization of available soybean protein products in other foods. Purdue’s Food Sciences’ sensory lab will offer sensory testing and evaluation of consumer approval of soy products to help change that view.

“Soy-based products have continued to grow over the past years and are expecting continued growth into the future,” Simsek said. “With this grant, Purdue Food Science will be a hub for research, development and education that will make connections and bridge the gaps between growers, breeders, researchers, students, the food industry and consumers.”

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