Functionally charged proteins clean up labels in meat alternatives

An Israeli start-up has said it is breaking new ground in cleaning up labels in meat analogues using veggie protein.

Meala FoodTech uses a proprietary platform to create functionally activated proteins designed to replace 1:1 methylcellulose and other hydrocolloid and gums widely used in meat replacements as binding and gelling agents.

Meala said it’s multi-functional proteins “vastly improve the texture of meat alternatives to more compellingly mimic the organoleptic qualities of real meat”.

Most meat alternatives on the market contain veggie protein (usually soy) combined with water, methylcellulose (food additive E461), additional stabilisers, flavours, colours, and fat and at large fail to meet the clean-label standards today’s consumers’ demand. But more than that, they still don’t quite hit the desired meat–like sensation. 

“If you break down the ingredients list of a real meat burger, its composition will be meat, fat, some carbohydrates, spices, salt and pepper,” explained Hadar Razmovich, CEO and co-founder of Meala. “Our vision is for plant-based alternatives to sport a similar short list of simple, recognisable ‘home kitchen’ ingredients while delivering the same full-bodied flavour and texture of real meat.”

Meala’s solution is produced using naturally occurring biocatalysts, enabling it to function as a methylcellulose replacer.

Its platform works with a range of plant proteins, creating from them a stable hydro-gel when heated, but without changing its behaviour when cooled, according to the company.

The Meala’s platform can be easily integrated into CPG products through existing manufacturing lines.

“In lab trials, our product demonstrated superior water retention capabilities and gelation properties,” said Liran Gruda, CIO, chef, and co-founder of Meala. “It exhibits a more fat-like quality when infused into meat analogs, tendering a juicier and more succulent bite. Meala is an all-encompassing solution that can replace not only methylcellulose but a whole system of stabilisers that are commonly used. It significantly improves texture in meat analogues, with no aftertaste yet with a nicely ‘polished’ label.”

Meala’s products will appear on an ingredient panel simply as a protein, such as pea or soy, and makes up roughly 4% of the end product.

The company revealed that its protein has already passed proof-of-concept trials in plant-based burgers, kebabs, dumplings and similar meat analogues manufactured for alternative meat producers and foodservice.

Meala said it will focus on this sector before expanding to dairy, fish, and egg alternative products. 

Amir Zaidman, chief business officer of The Kitchen FoodTech Hub admitred it is challenging to replace additives consumers do not want in their foods, however he said he is “extremely excited about Meala’s breakthrough B2B platform and the possibilities it opens for plant-based brands”.

He added: “We believe this can be a giant step in making plant-based foods the standard.” 

Meala was founded in 2020 by product innovation specialist Hadar Ekhoiz Razmovich; Dr. Tali Feldman Sivan, serial entrepreneur and business strategist; and Liran Gruda, an expert in culinary arts and molecular cuisine.

After scouring the meat alternative category, the trio joined forces to bridge the gap between heavily processed vegan products, and the perception that plant-based products are “better for you” and break down the last barriers between meat and meat analogues.

The start-up is one of an impressive portfolio of promising companies enjoying the backing of The Kitchen FoodTech Hub.


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