The plant revolution - more than just a trend
Vegan and vegetarian nutrition have arrived in Germany: In Germany, about 2% of the population now prefer a vegan diet and about 10% follow a vegetarian diet - and the trend is rising. More and more people are also trying to avoid animal products and are consciously choosing plant-based alternatives. Especially in the field of milk and meat alternatives, the market continues to grow: from plant-based drinks derived from soy, oats, rice, or various nuts, to various meat substitutes based on peas, soy, or lupines, there are more and more foods that do not contain animal products or meat. In the production of plant-based substitute products, centrifuges from Flottweg play a particularly important role in creating the perfect food product.
Plant-based milk alternatives – why centrifuges play an important role
In the production of plant-based milk alternatives, the raw material is first mixed with water and finely ground. This is followed by an extraction process in which an attempt is made to extract as many ingredients as possible into the liquid phase, i.e. the plant milk. In the case of raw materials containing starch, enzymes are used to convert the starch and other carbohydrates into sugar. An essential step is the efficient separation of the extracted plant fibers using decanter centrifuges. The raw milk is subsequently mixed with other ingredients (e.g. oil, flavoring or salt) as required, then homogenized, heated and finally packaged.
Flottweg decanter centrifuges are recognized as being the most efficient machines for the separation of raw milk from extracted plant parts. The high g-forces ensure maximum clarification, combined with a high liquid yield due to efficient dewatering and a continuously high throughput. This ensures maximum yield of plant milk. Efficient separation is also crucial for the pleasant palatability of the vegetable beverage, as too many solids can cause the end-user to experience a "sandy texture." Flottweg decanter centrifuges are also manufactured according to the latest hygiene guidelines and can be easily integrated into a fully automatic system with CIP cleaning.
Peas, lentils and co. - how plant proteins are produced
When it comes to protein extraction, a distinction is made between two plant groups: starch plants, such as peas, fava beans, mung beans or lentils, and oil plants, such as soy, rapeseed, sunflower and lupines. In the case of both groups of raw materials, operators take advantage of their natural proteins. The solubility of the proteins in an aqueous medium depends on the pH value. The basic principle of extraction is therefore divided into two stages: Firstly, 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 decanters. In the second step, the liquid protein obtained becomes insoluble again due to a pH reduction and must be separated from the rest of the solution with a second decanter. This precipitated protein is further concentrated by subsequent washing steps and thus becomes a so-called protein isolate. This protein is characterized by its high purity and excellent functionality. The starch and fiber by-products can also be produced in high-purity quality using Flottweg’s processing.
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. Similar to a separator, this product clarifies the suspension, i.e. it delivers 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.
The food industry is currently experiencing several product innovations as well as a transition towards plant-based proteins and plant-milk products. All in all, the plant-based alternatives sector is poised for long-term growth. Industrial centrifuges such as the Sedicanter® from Flottweg support the frugal utilization of valuable resources and the achievement of optimal separation results in plant-based alternative food products.