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6 Facts About Plant Proteins

Plant-based proteins – is this just a short-term trend or is it a sustainable development for the future? What role do Flottweg decanter centrifuges play in the extraction of plant-based proteins? The following 6 facts provide an initial insight into the world of plant proteins.

There is an increasing demand for plant-based protein.

Several factors are currently increasing the popularity of plant-based proteins. More and more people are adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet. This trend is accompanied by significant advances in product development: While soy and wheat proteins have been used as substitute products for some time, peas, lentils, and many others are now entering the market. New products are constantly being introduced to the market, and more and more devotees are finding that plant-based alternatives taste better, are healthier, and are affordable. Plant proteins are also becoming increasingly important due to global population growth.

Food made from plant-based products is significantly more resource-efficient than animal-based products.

All people are dependent on an adequate supply of protein. Due to steady population growth, animal-product-based diets are rapidly reaching ecological and ethical limits. By comparison, the use of plant proteins is significantly more resource-efficient and sustainable since plants are not used as livestock feed but as a direct source of protein for humans.

In principle, protein can be obtained from almost any plant.

This is generally true, but a distinction must be made between two major groups of plant protein sources: Starch plants and oil plants. Starch plants include peas, fava or broad beans, mung beans, lentils, etc. Plants such as soybeans, lupines, rapeseed, sunflower, etc. belong to the category of oil plants. Cost efficiency plays a major role in the production of plant protein, so not all plants are suitable for protein production. But here, too, there is currently a lot of movement in the food industry. 

Centrifuges play an important role in the production of plant proteins.

The fundamental principle of extraction is divided into two phases: First, the protein is extracted from the plant matter at a high pH and then separated from the remaining plant solids, such as fibers and starch, using a decanter. In a second step, this extracted liquid protein is again made insoluble by lowering the pH value, and can thus be separated from the rest of the solution using a further decanter. This precipitated protein is further concentrated by subsequent washing steps and thus becomes a so-called protein isolate.

The by-products generated during manufacturing are high-quality raw materials that can also be further processed.

Both starch and oil plants produce high-quality by-products that can be further processed. As the name suggests, starch plants contain not only protein (approx. 20–25%) but also a significant amount of starch and fiber. The separation process allows all three components to be obtained in a highly pure form. Thus, starch and fibers are by no means inconvenient by-products, but can also be marketed as high-quality raw materials. In this process, fibers and starch are separated and concentrated by means of centrifugal screens, hydrocyclone unit, the Flottweg nozzle separator and Flottweg decanter. In the case of oil plants, the pressed cake produced during oil production is further processed. It is important that the preceding deoiling process is as gentle as possible, otherwise the protein is pre-damaged and can no longer be separated from the plant matrix.

Flottweg's Sedicanter® is the perfect technical solution for the demanding process of separating plant protein.

The Sedicanter® is a decanter centrifuge produced by Flottweg for soft, free-flowing sediment that is difficult to process using a standard decanter. The unique Flottweg Sedicanter® combines the advantages of a separator and a decanter centrifuge and is thus the perfect technical solution for the demanding process of separating plant protein. It clarifies the suspension in a similar way to a separator, i.e. it provides an optimally clarified centrate. At the same time - like the decanter - it processes large quantities of solids at the inlet and produces dry solids (sediment) in the discharge.

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