3 October 2019

New EU project to produce new proteins from pasta, bread, and beer


Four-year collaboration between 33 partners across 21 countries to begin in 2020. Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH FOOD) is leading the consumer studies part of the project.

A range of new-protein foods made from the byproducts of pasta, bread, and beer will soon be created under a new EU project.

Innovative new proteins emerging from the Smart Protein project, which is funded by the European Commission, will include plant-based meats, fish, seafood, cheese, infant formula, and other dairy products, as well as baked goods. It is expected that the first wave of products will go to market in or around 2025.

The Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH FOOD) is represented by Associate Professor Armando Perez-Cueto who is leader of the Work Package on Consumer Studies. UCPH FOOD will also contribute by working on the processing of plant protein and plant-based foods. The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen will be involved in the research on primary production.

A key aim of the project is to help build a future-proof protein supply by creating sustainable and nutritious alternative proteins. This is in direct response to some of the most urgent challenges faced by the planet, including climate change.

“Smart Protein answers a clarion call: alternative protein sources are vitally needed to confront the urgent challenges posed by the global food system in terms of environmental destruction, climate change, food security, and public health,” said Verena Wiederkehr, International Head of Food Industry & Retail for ProVeg International, one of the organisations collaborating on the Smart Protein project.

Wiederkehr added: “Smart Protein reconsiders the entire protein value chain from production to consumption, using innovative techniques and processes never before deployed on this scale for human consumption. We’re proud to have the chance, through this project, to deliver some of the creative solutions our food system so desperately needs.”

Emanuele Zannini, Senior Research Officer with the University of Cork and the Lead Coordinator of Smart Protein, said: “The potential positive impact of Smart Protein for the planet and for our food supply cannot be underestimated. By using byproducts and residues –  which are usually used for animal feed –  to produce delicious, protein-rich food, we are taking major strides towards feeding our rapidly-growing population.”

Pasta residues, bread crusts, and spent yeast and malting rootlets from beer production will be reintegrated into the food stream using an upcycling process. New products will also be developed from plants, including fava beans, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa – with a focus on improving their structure, taste, and flavour.

A total of 33 partners from industry, research, and academia across 21 different countries, including Denmark, will collaborate on the project, which is led by the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork in Ireland. Major collaborators include Fraunhofer, the University of Copenhagen, ProVeg International, Barilla, Thai Union, Chr. Hansen A/S, SiccaDania A/S, Novozymes A/S, and AB InBev.

The team behind Smart Protein. Photo by Magdalena Tyndyk, UCC academy.

Smart Protein has a total budget of €9.6 million, €8.2 million of which is provided by the European Commission.
Smart Protein will run for four years from 1 January 2020.