The processing of food, vegetables and other plant materials leads to large amounts of by-products that are not needed for the final product. These include solid residues from fruits and seeds from pressing that still contain many valuable ingredients, but are not required for the production of food. FoodSolutionsTeam (FST) from Konstanz is developing technologies that enable these by-products to be transformed into valuable food ingredients that are suitable for human consumption. FST tests and combines different processes with the objective of finding a method that can transform almost worthless food production by-products into innovative food ingredients.
“It is appalling to see so many valuable food ingredients being lost during the production of human foodstuffs,” said Andreas Herzig, managing director of FoodSolutionsTeam (FST), a company based in Konstanz that is endeavouring to counteract this situation by developing innovative products from almost worthless food production by-products. One excellent example is pomace, i.e. the solid remains of fruit, seeds and vegetables after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skin, seeds, stems and pulp of the fruit.
According to a market report by ttz Bremerhaven, several thousand tons of vegetable and fruit pomace accumulate every year. “These by-products are usually used for the production of animal feed, fertilisers or in biogas plants, although they are also valuable for human consumption due to their high protein and mineral content,” said Herzig. High quality food ingredients that accumulate in expensive production processes are thus lost; this applies to organically as well as traditionally grown food.
The difficulty is to transform by-products into ready-to-use ingredients for use in food. Concepts and technologies that enable the transformation of the residues into new products need to be developed and tested. “The process used is crucial here,” said Herzig explaining that the idea is not completely new, and naming dried apple pomace used for the extraction of pectin as an example.
Techniques that enable the use of other solid remains after pressing are barely established, but the opportunities are enormous. FST is therefore working with partners such as Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum and the ttz in Bremerhaven in order to develop innovative technologies on a larger scale. In addition, the company has just joined the “Bioactive Plant Foods” network and hopes that the exchange with other network partners will also lead to new developments and technologies.
Thanks to EST’s innovative developments, valuable plant nutrients are no longer being lost. They can now be used for the production of new products, thus reducing the amount of “waste” that the manufacturers would otherwise have to dispose of in costly processes. “This also improves the environmental balance as well as the image of the company and creates additional profit through the sale of the resulting product,” said Herzig. The thickeners are a kind of vegetable powder and represent a revolution in the thickening agent market due to their high water retention capacity and the fact that they contain valuable nutrients such as vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, dietary fibres, etc.
“Some by-products are excellently suited to replacing thickening agents such as guar flour, carob gum or xanthane,” said Herzig. The organic food industry is particularly focused on producing food as naturally as possible and is looking for alternatives to conventional thickeners. FST's innovative thickeners, which contain many bioactive substances, can replace traditional thickening agents and also have added health benefits for the consumer. In addition, these products are not regarded as traditional thickening agents, but as plant ingredients, and just need to be declared as such on the food label. Moreover, they are often cheaper than traditional thickening agents.
At present, the transformation of the by-products is outsourced to other manufacturers. However, FST has plans to build its own factory. In addition, the team is continuously working on methods for processing other plant pomace. One of the projects Herzig was involved in focused on linseed oil production, which also led to the accumulation of valuable and promising raw materials. “Producers dislike using the press cake as a fertiliser, it is far too valuable for this as it still contains high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and fibres,” said Herzig. Aware of the fact that people’s intake of such nutrients is still far too low, Herzig decided to use the press cake for a new product. FST’s “LeinPRO Organic” product is already used in many areas, including the production of meat and sausages, gourmet food, soups, sauces, bouillons and bakery products. The linseed press cake extract gives food a rather pleasant nutty taste,” said Herzig.
FoodSolutionsTeam also sells innovative products produced by other manufacturers, including Bio Okara, a by-product of tofu production with a high protein content and excellent water retention capacity. It has been refined for human consumption in a process that took several years. The company also markets gluten-free bakery mixes, flavours, pea protein as soy replacement and egg replacers.
FST is always interested in further R&D projects for which it would like to establish a research and testing laboratory on its premises. “At the moment we do not need permanent access to a laboratory so we rent one on a day-to-day basis or if necessary, try out a new mixture in our private kitchens,” said Herzig.
Andreas Herzig (Managing Director)