The Business of Alt Protein: Unlocking Food Safety in Plant-based Meat Webinar transcript April 23, 2021

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Speakers:

Emma Cahill , Strategic Marketing, Food Protection & Preservation, Kerry Taste & Nutrition

Jennifer Wasieleski, RD&A Director, Food Protection & Preservation, Kerry Taste & Nutrition

Renetta Cooper, Technical Business Development Director, Food Protection & Preservation Kerry Taste & Nutrition

Marika:

Welcome. My name is Marika Azoff and I’m the corporate engagement specialist here at The Good Food Institute. Hold on one minute. All right. Today I’m stepping in for our corporate engagement assistant, Molly, who among other things manages the business side of our GFIdeas community of entrepreneurs, investors, and other professionals in the alt protein industry. If you want to learn more about GFIdeas, you can visit gfi.com. I’m sorry, gfi.org/community, to learn more about the community. For those of you who don’t know, The Good Food Institute is an international nonprofit organization, and we are dedicated to developing the roadmap for a sustainable secure and just protein supply. We do that by identifying the most effective solutions, mobilizing resources and talent and empowering partners across the food systems to make alternative protein accessible, delicious, affordable, and as we like to say, no longer the alternative. Please visit gfi.org to learn more about our work.

Marika:

Before we begin our exciting webinar for the day, I have a few housekeeping items. This webinar will be recorded and posted to our YouTube channel shortly after the presentation. For all registrants, you will receive an email with a copy of the recording and the slides from today’s presentation. Keep an eye out for that. If you want to view any previous seminars, you can do so on our YouTube channel. Secondly, we will have about 15 minutes at the end of the presentation for a Q&A. You can save your questions until the end or write them in the Q&A box as we go. Please make sure that you use the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen instead of the chat. We’ll be monitoring that box for questions primarily. So pop those questions in. Now, without further ado, I’m so excited to introduce our presenters. Today we have Emma Cahill, Jennifer Wasieleski and Renetta Cooper, who all sit on the food protection and preservation team of Kerry Group. Kerry is an international taste and nutrition company.

Marika:

Kerry is a global leader in the food and beverage space with a direct focus on plant protein through both their tastes and nutrition division. Working through specialty ingredients under the radical portfolio as well as their consumer foods business, with brands such as Naked Glory and PlantFare. Today’s presentation will focus on food safety and plant-based meat and dairy. Our presenters will cover why food protection is important, healthy and consumer-friendly and preservative ingredients, how food protection actually works, a special considerations for moving products from the freezer section to the refrigerated section, and much, much more. I’m excited to now turn things over to Emma to kick off the presentation.

Emma Cahill:

Thanks Marika. We are truly live today and we have decided to make this presentation interactive. You’ll see up on your screen a QR code for an app called Mentimeter, or you can go to menti.com and use the code on screen to join. We’re going to have four questions throughout the presentation that we would love your input on. Three in my section, and one coming later in my colleague, Renetta’s section. As promised in the abstract, we’re going to give actionable insights to help you unlock food safety in plant-based meat. My name is Emma Cahill and I lead strategic marketing for our global food protection and preservation division at Kerry. I’m joined by my colleague Renetta Cooper who leads business developments in plant protein and Jennifer Wasieleski who leads organic team. My section from a marketing point of view is going to help you answer the question of why protecting plant-based meat is important, and does it matter if you use consumer-friendly ingredients? I’m going to pause for a moment and explain what I mean when I say consumer-friendly ingredients. You may already be familiar with the term clean label, which is an industry favorite.

Emma Cahill:

Sometimes those two things overlap. Consumer-friendly in some regions can mean all natural, no artificial preservatives, but it’s more than that. It can be about sustainability, economics and food safety. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. Let’s look at the global market opportunity for plant-based meat alternatives. MarketsandMarkets predict that the market size is going to grow to 27.9 billion by 2025. That’s coming with double digit growth. The opportunity in plant-based meat is explosive, and that’s why we’re here to talk about food safety in plant-based meat today. I’m going to go across to menti and I would love you to rank these consumer drivers for plant-based meat. This is your opinion, whether you think the reasons why consumers have turned to plant-based meat. Is there a diet such as a vegan or vegetarian diet, or reasons such as health and wellness or sustainability? We look at this from a global point of view where there are some differences around the world. It’s great to see everybody joining in and all of the different opinions going up and down.

Emma Cahill:

At its inception, the plant-based meat market was likely quite niche and coming from a place of dietary restriction, mostly driven by vegan and vegetarian diets. Then emerged the flexitarian, which is definitely a word I have learned in the last five years. I’ll give you guys another moment to rank these different reasons. I’m seeing health and wellness is a strong number one, followed by sustainability and the dietary restrictions coming next. Fantastic. Okay. The ranking seems pretty stable. They’re not shifting too much anymore. Let’s reveal where we’re at today in the world. The number one driver around the world for plant-based meat purchase is actually sustainability. In most regions of the world, the number one trend we see as part of our recent proprietary research is sustainability. But in North America, there is an exception. The number one driver is health and wellness. What does that mean when you’re formulating plant-based meat on you’re concerned around food safety? Starting with sustainability, which is such a hot topic in all of our daily lives, consumers were concerned about sustainability are going to be particularly sensitive to food waste concerns.

Emma Cahill:

If a plant-based meat product expires or has a quality issue before they get to consume it, that’s going to be a huge negative in that consumer’s mind. Back to health and wellness. Those consumers are more likely to read ingredient declarations and nutrition statements. Things like no additives or preservatives claims and sodium content will really impact their purchase decisions. As mentioned, dietary restrictions are not the main driver anymore for a plant-based diet. We are seeing that over half of consumers of plant-based meat have a no restriction diet from our own proprietary research called Meat, the Challenge. Additionally, Nielsen tells us that 99% of plant-based meat consumers are also buying animal protein for their households. Again, what does that mean when you’re formulating plant protein and worried about food safety? It means that those consumers expect to be able to treat a plant protein with the same familiarity and convenience as they do their animal protein that they’re preparing for their households. They are not the niche consumer who’s willing to give it special treatments and they can often be disappointed if it parishes quicker or is harder to prepare.

Emma Cahill:

Differences in the need for special handling and preparation can lead to food safety issues when a consumer just assumes that they can treat it like animal based meat. As covered earlier, health and wellness is a huge driver for why people are eating plant-based meat. Plant-based doesn’t get a free pass on ingredient labels and nutrition. With over 60% of consumers saying that they frequently read a nutritional panel and ingredient statements. In our recent food safety research, we also unearthed that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 60% of consumers are saying they’re way more concerned about food safety than they were pre pandemic. With this in mind, I want to go back to your phones and ask you a question. Do you feel that food safety in plant-based meat is a consumer concern? Obviously food safety is top of mind from an industry point of view. We’re always here to protect consumer health and prevent brand recalls, but do we think it has hit the consumer’s radar in plant-based meat? Fantastic, great opinions here. I do have the answer to this.

Emma Cahill:

Kerry very recently launched some proprietary research conducted in North America in this instance with a panel of about 1,000 consumers, where we wanted to explore consumer understanding of food safety. We did this across all product categories for both in-home and out of home consumption and we were very surprised by the results. The number one and two for in-home consumption in terms of product categories where consumers have the highest level of concern was no surprise to me anyway, it was fresh meat and processed meat. But what came next was a little bit surprising. Our number three equaling processed meat for consumer concern was other plant-based dairy. This was everything except non-dairy milk, so plant-based cheese and plant-based yogurt. Right up there in fourth place was plant-based meat alternatives with 49% of consumers expressing a concern around the food safety of these products. We wanted to know why plant-based meat is so high on a consumer’s radar as a food safety concern at pacing meat based products like frozen chicken. We believe this is a combination of unfamiliarity with plant-based meats.

Emma Cahill:

They’re not as used to growing up with this. It’s probably new, and they’re not sure how to prepare it. They don’t have that reflex or that experience of the sniff test to know if it’s okay to eat. Combine this with a look at the number of recalls around the world that are hitting the media. These are just headlines from around the world across plant-based meat and plant-based dairy of recalls that have hit the media and would be within consumer awareness. Add into this some opinion pieces that are out there that have been written for the industry about food safety concerns in the plant-based meat space and we can understand why this messaging is hitting consumers and they’re feeling concerns. Back to your phones, I’d love to hear from you, what is top of mind when you hear a food safety recall announced in the media? Is it a contamination? Is it something like an undeclared allergen or mislabeling? Or is it about foreign materials? This can be your own gut reaction or what you hear about most in the media.

Emma Cahill:

I would say for me, and it may be the interpersonal experience, foreign materials are maybe more of an industry concern and may not be hitting consumer awareness until it makes the headlines. But here the numbers are really aligning with what we see when we look at industry data. I combed through the recalls over the last five years from both the USDA and the FDA here in North America. Both in meats and in food, the number one reason for product recalls in food and beverage was contamination as perfectly captured by your inputs in the menti, which is great. If we look at the FDA, because we’re talking about plant-based meat here, so not animal based meat under USDA, and we dig into the recalls due to contamination, and we visualize them here in a word cloud, what stands out is potential contamination with listeria and salmonella. These are pathogens associated with food poisoning or food safety risks. This is a clear call to why consumers are concerned about food safety and why we need to do something to address any food safety gaps to improve consumer trust in plat-based meat.

Emma Cahill:

That we consumers are concerned with food safety, we also asked them as part of the same survey upon who the responsibility lies to ensure food safety. Their answer was resigned I that it lies with the industry. The pain of a recall also hits the industry. With data, showing that the average cost of a recall is $10 million. That doesn’t capture the additional brand damage and potential loss of sales. From a food safety point of view, it helps for brand protection and also protecting consumer health. It’s really, really important that the industry takes food safety seriously and addresses any gaps that could be potentially there in terms of plant protein. With that, I’m going to hand over to my colleague Renetta Cooper.

Renetta Cooper:

Thanks, Emma. Emma is taking you through why one needs to look at options related to food safety and plant-based meat alternatives. I’ll be helping you to better understand when to build with safety and food protection into your formulations. When to start and when it’s really a requirement. Addressing this early in development process is really important. It will allow you to quickly and successfully to market with your creative and exciting plant-based meat alternatives. We’re going to switch over to another menti. As we start to talk about this, we want to look at how we should build food protection in. The question I wanted to ask you is whether it should be fresh? What’s growing more quickly, is it fresh or frozen? As you answer this question, I’d like to give you a little information that we’ve gotten from Nielsen data and from The Good Food Institute reports. Today, the plant-based protein market in the US is estimated to be 57% frozen. Our data shows us that a refrigerated plant-based meat alternative products sales are outpacing frozen as of June 2020.

Renetta Cooper:

With the market seeing a sales increase of approximately 70% in every refrigerated plant-based category between June of 2019 and June of 2020. With fresh meat alternatives being increasingly sold in the meat aisle alongside of traditional meat products, it’s exciting to see this level of growth. The category did particularly well during the pandemic, experiencing high growth at 454% versus the same week of 2019. Then finally, Datassential is telling us that the majority of consumers are feeling less safe about buying meat during the pandemic. We believe that that continued growth in plant based products is likely to be in the refrigerated aisle. I can see from your answers here that you agreed with the information that we’ve seen that there’s likely to be a much greater increase in the refrigerated section. Starting fresh, what’s different about starting fresh? I think that we see that this is a really rapidly growing space. It is important to partner early in order to get the best outcome as you move into the refrigerated space.

Renetta Cooper:

What I mean by that, is to really reach out to your ingredient suppliers to help you move into that space. It’s important that you start during your concept development. In particular, when the goal is to develop a refrigerated product, it’s the perfect time for you to start that partnership. Partnering early offers the best and quickest outcome as most plant-based meat alternatives are high in moisture and have a relatively neutral pH. It’s highly likely that you are going to need a clean label antimicrobial if you want to achieve a shelf life of greater than seven to 10 days. Kerry itself when it decided to do some development in plant-based items when we developed our chicken nugget alternate, we did decide early on to build food protection into that core product. We did want to achieve greater than 10 days shelf life. We understood by doing that, we would overcome any problems that were related to taste and texture before we looked at adding the required flavoring systems. It is a very important to get that right to begin with.

Renetta Cooper:

I did want to point out in the center of the screen, this is actually what we call the food safety flow chart. It’s an internal proprietary tool that we’re happy to share with you on specific issues. It allows us to look at the raw materials and the processing that’s used in product development, understanding what the concerns are, addressing each of the potential sources of contamination and making decisions. As we move through that process, understanding how the product is going to be heat treated as well as packaged so that we can uncover what are the potential hurdles in developing a long shelf life that is safe. Really the important thing here is asking the right questions early. A little bit more of a challenge is if you’re actually moving from frozen to fresh. You do want to understand your current formulation and understand that there’s actually anything already in that formula that would be helpful to deliver food protection. It is a bit more of a challenge because you have that base formula that you’re starting with.

Renetta Cooper:

It’s inherent if you’re starting with a frozen fermentation, you’re going to have some challenges that you need to unravel as you try to move that formula from frozen to refrigerated. It’s really important to understand each of the ingredients that you already have in your formula. What’s the purpose or function of that ingredient in your formula? Is it going to continue to be important if you move to refrigerated format or do you have some components in there that are specifically related to giving a good shelf life on a frozen product specifically? It actually creates an opportunity for you to better understand the functionality of each of the ingredients and potentially remove things that may not be required in a refrigerated format. Really looking at the gaps and how you could bridge the gaps in your current formulation to create a product that is very similar, but has a longer refrigerated shelf life. It would also be good to really understand what your spoilage issues are.

Renetta Cooper:

They may not have been things that you considered in the past when you were making a frozen product and you didn’t really have to be concerned about the outgrowth of the spoilage organisms. Then also addressing any potential issues with flavor and texture. It’s one of the challenges that you see when you’re starting with a frozen product that you didn’t have to really account for any kind of off flavors or textures issues that you’re antimicrobial might also bring in. So you do need to account for those as soon as possible. It does make it a greater challenge when you’re moving from frozen to fresh. Really the underlying question that you want to make sure that you’re covering is, what will really need to be provided in order to give you the refrigerated shelf life that you’re looking for? How can you do this? There’s a number of ways that we’ve looked at doing this. It’s interesting and I think that there are different benefits with each of these options. One of them is to build the clean label preservation into your actual base material.

Renetta Cooper:

We think this is a really good starting point. If you build it into that base material and you account for any kind of flavor or texture differences that the antimicrobial may bring, it helps you to start with a cleaner place to build from. Build in early it’s an approach that we’ve taken. It’s actually just built into your white mass. Another way of building your clean label antimicrobial would be to be integrated into your flavor system. Whether that’s a masking system or the seasoning blends that you’re using in your product. This is really helpful because it gives your operators one last step. So everything can go in at one time, and then you have confidence that that good safety has actually been built in and you’re covered from that perspective. It’s just one system that covers both your flavor requirements, any masking requirements that you might have, as well as the clean label antimicrobial. Next would be a multi ingredient system, and they are available either in liquid or dry solutions. In this particular case, you’re trying to target added benefits.

Renetta Cooper:

You’re looking for multiple coverage of spoilage organisms or pathogens. It is typically added separately and it’s added to your base material, and then you would add your seasonings and flavors on top of that. Then finally, if you have a formula that’s fairly complete, you can look at applying single ingredients. Those single ingredients are also available both in liquid and dry formats. It really depends on your processing and the ease of handling that you might be looking for, what option you would want to go with. In general, a single component system doesn’t give you as broad of coverage as you might see with a system. It’s really understanding the spectrum of inhibition that you need for your formula. Really the goal here is to understand what your challenges are and to make sure we’re also meeting the consumer demand. Especially if you’re looking to develop something that might have some potential outside of the US and really looking for the ability to have things that can be manufactured in the US and sold in another region. Really looking at what those consumer friendly ingredients can be, combined with both tastes and preservation expertise.

Renetta Cooper:

If we look first at the customer challenge, the challenges that you have in developing a food product based on a plant protein, shelf life is a challenge. What we’re really talking about today that an additional challenge that you would face would be taste and nutrition. We’ve talked a little bit about how antimicrobials can impact flavor, and you want to account for that early. We see that one of the challenges can be really to make sure that you’re meeting that consumer desired clean label friendly ingredient deck. Making sure that if there are any restrictions on what ingredients that you can put into your products, that those are understood. Sodium reduction, sodium has been an issue in a lot of plant-based products in the past and looking at trying to find ways to reduce that. Then of course, you always need to be meeting the regulatory requirements, whether those be regional or global. Doing it the same time and marrying them up to what we see consumers looking for. Really freshness and convenience, they want that product to last longer. Particular it’s in the frozen section …

Renetta Cooper:

Or I’m sorry, the refrigerated section, how long can we make that product have a really high quality so that when the consumer takes it home, they can keep it in the refrigerator for a number of days. Tying into sustainability, really that reduction in food waste. The longer shelf life that we have, the more opportunity for the consumer to enjoy that product, we will reduce food waste. They should be trusted ingredients and have the same taste and quality or appeal that they would see in more familiar products. Really looking to meet both the challenges that you have, as well as the demands that we’re seeing from consumers. One thing that we like to do, and I particularly like to do this with people that are newer to our group or new grads, is actually to do some supermarket marketing. I think that there’s just so much to be learned from simply going to your grocery store and seeing what products are available on the shelves today. Trying to understand what makes them attractive to consumers. Looking at the ingredient label, looking for best by dates.

Renetta Cooper:

In some places you can find actually what plant it was manufacturer in. Look really carefully at the packaging. What does that tell you about it and why does that appeal to your consumer? Or what kind of food protection is the packaging actually giving to that product? Then clearly the ability to look at how do these products compare in price. We find that the labels will fall into a number of categories. You’ll find products in the store, plant-based alternatives today that may have no preservative or they may have some natural preservatives to protect during the consumer-thaw before cooking. There is some of that out there already. It’s good to see what competition is already doing. We do see in very rare cases, especially in plant protein, the use of artificial preservatives. It’s not very common, but there are some that have been launched in this space. It doesn’t really necessarily align very well with what we believe consumers are looking for with respect to label docs. There are a number of products in the market that have consumer-friendly preservatives and these ingredients, there’s a spectrum of them that are allowed.

Renetta Cooper:

That does vary across region. Important to note that. Finally, there are products in the market that actually aren’t using a clean label preservative. The way that those products are been given a longer shelf life is really through the processing on something like high pressure processing is being used and the packaging that is being applied to that product. Whether it’s an overwrap, vacuum packaging or modified atmosphere. What’s important to understand, that if you don’t see a preservative on the label doc there is no secondary shelf life when you open that package. All of the food protection is actually coming from the packaging. One of the things that it’s important to understand what you’re seeing on the label, as well as what you don’t see on the label. If you’re seeing a product that is packaged very well, it could be vacuum packed, it could be modified atmosphere packaging, but it contains no antimicrobial then in all of the likelihood it doesn’t have a very long shelf life. There’s probably no secondary shelf life after that package is opened.

Renetta Cooper:

Imagine that you’ve gone to the grocery store and you’ve looked at hundreds of label docs, and you’re trying to understand this myriad of things that you see and what do they mean. This is a word cloud of all of the things that you might’ve seen on those label docs and trying to understand how are they actually affecting the ability of that product to be shelf stable or have a longer shelf life. How can we translate those ingredients into something that you can work with? We wanted to give you a frame of reference and provide some focus areas on where things are different and what options are available. We’d like to do this in sort of a quantitative way to give you a frame of reference, really looking at what’s good, what might be better and what’s best in class. If we start with artificial preservatives, and as I mentioned, you don’t see those commonly used in plant-based alternatives, there are some benefits. They are inexpensive, but they’re not particularly label friendly. Just to quickly go through the other criteria that we wanted to evaluate against, is understanding their compliance.

Renetta Cooper:

Not just in the US, but globally, if you wanted to move outside of the region. Another good thing about artificial preservatives is they’re very good at inhibiting pathogens as well as spoilage organisms. So some very promising and good reasons to be looking at artificial preservatives. They don’t score particularly well in the area of sustainability because they’re typically synthetic, so they wouldn’t really fit in that space. They don’t really do much for you with respect to giving you or protecting the flavor and the shelf life. They do a great job at pathogens and spoilage organisms, but nothing that’s really going to help you with respect to off flavor development. They don’t contribute to particular high levels of sodium because their use rates are very low. But again, the biggest drawback to artificial preservatives in this space is really the label friendliness and whether or not the consumer of a plant-based alternative would recognize or like to see a product with an artificial preservative.

Renetta Cooper:

If we go to single ingredients, I’m not going to touch on all of them, just call out the high points here. Single ingredients, they do cost a little bit more. Definitely, this is clean label single ingredients. They do much better in the area of being label friendly. They have some compliance. If you’re using a single ingredient, it’s unlikely to be compliant in every region of the world. That’s very challenging. But they do a really good job on pathogens. They do a fairly good job on spoilage organisms. They fit into that sustainability space because we’re looking at single components that are either based on fermentation from a renewable resource or plant extract. They fit really nicely into this category. Again, they don’t have a lot of play on helping flavor at the end of their shelf life. In some cases, they are fairly high in sodium, but they do fit the bill a little bit better with respect to whether or not your consumer would accept seeing that ingredient on the label doc. The next category is really a functional system where you’re building a multi-component system to address things more broadly.

Renetta Cooper:

We think this is a really good approach and it hits a number of these things, and doesn’t have any really negative call-outs. They are more expensive than artificial preservatives. You can expand your ability to have global compliance. They still check the box with respect to label friendliness. But it does give you an expanded inhibition against both pathogens and spoilage organisms by looking at a system. If you’re looking at a system, it does give you the ability to build some functionality into the system that will help you with flavor at the end of shelf life. Not just the antimicrobial aspects, but preventing some of the other off flavors. Again, they can be fairly low sodium, so it kind of ticks that box as well. The consumer acceptances is really going to be high with these combination systems that are clean label and friendly in appearance. We wanted to make the comparison to frozen. Well, obviously frozen doesn’t have a cost by itself, but freezing the products and the distribution of the frozen product is probably going to add more cost than an … Excuse me, an antimicrobial, and in particular an artificial.

Renetta Cooper:

So you have a cost impact there. If you’re freezing it, you don’t necessarily need to use an antimicrobial. That’s a very label friendly way to go about that. No issues with regulations. I think where we see a real drawback from continuing in the frozen spaces that consumers are really looking for something that’s refrigerated and the convenience of that refrigerated product. There are some processing technologies that are very clean labeled. High pressure processing would be one example. The drawback to that is that it is quite expensive as compared to an ingredient technology for food safety. It does a great job of hitting all of the other boxes with respect to label friendliest compliance, food safety, pathogen inhibition. The biggest drawback there is really that it has no secondary shelf life after opening and the actual cost contribution. I’m really just trying to give you an overview of the technologies that are available and a frame of reference so that you can look at this and see what kind of approach might be best for the brand that I’m developing for.

Renetta Cooper:

Just to touch a little bit more on the factors within the formulation and the environment. We’re going to be talking a lot about clean label antimicrobials and those are really the intrinsic things that you can do within your formulation to add food safety. But in addition to that, you really want to understand pH, salt and water activity. All of those things have a really big role to play in how well this product is going to hold up at a refrigerated temperature. You also want to understand what are the intrinsic factors that are affecting your product. Those are things that are outside of the product. The packaging, the times and temperatures that are used during its processing. How it’s stored, how it’s shipped. So all of the other factors that affect your product. Those two things in combination, a good understanding of those will help you design a product with a very good shelf life. This is a very important slide when we’re looking to formulate and looking at the hurdles that one can put in place to develop a product with a long shelf life.

Renetta Cooper:

Adding a preservative ingredient alone doesn’t really guarantee an optimal shelf life and food safety performance. It’s really looking at all of those things, temperature, water activity, pH, how can you control those within your formulation to give that product the best chance. Lower pH, lower water activity tends to result in something with a longer shelf life. Then what are your options around clean label preservation? We really think that partnering with the ingredient supplier, getting their understanding of how you can adjust water activity, how you can adjust pH within your formulation, and then finally picking and selecting the best clean label antimicrobial for the product that you’re trying to develop.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

Thanks, Renetta. Today, Emma has shared with you why food safety matters for plant-based alternatives. Renetta has explained to you when you should start thinking about food safety interventions in your process. Now we’ll be taking you through how to identify your food protection needs and how to validate that your solution works as you formulate your products for the refrigerated space. There are four primary food safety hazards that you need to be concerned about when formulating a food product. Controlling those hazards are how you prevent foodborne illness. The physical, allergenic and chemical hazards would be covered by your quality team and controls should be built into your hazard plans. Our focus today will be on the biological risk and how food protection ingredients can help you control this hazard. When it comes to determining the shelf life of food products, developers need to consider the sensory attributes such as color and flavor. But most importantly, they need to understand the spoilage related to microbial growth.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

The strategies needed to address these microbial issues will be more challenging and complex than those needed to overcome organoleptic changes. Microbial spoilage can be broken down into two distinct categories, food pathogens, which are bacteria that will make you sick, and food spoilage microorganisms, which will just make the food organoleptically unappetizing. Such as the mold growing on your bread or cheese. It’s important to note that just because you have interventions that can control one category, it does not mean that you are capable of controlling the other category. As Renetta mentioned, it’s important to build multiple hurdles into your food system to ensure you have a robust process. Many food companies use best before dates to designate the end of a product’s optimal quality. Whereas use by dates indicate when a product may no longer be safe to eat. Use by dates are determined by performing microbial challenge studies. These studies are performed in a lab and where the food company intentionally applies the microbe of concern into the food product.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

The food is then stored under specific packaging and storage conditions and the growth of the microbe is monitored. The purpose of these microbial challenge studies is to understand how quickly your undesirable microbes would grow to unacceptable levels and helps the food manufacturer determine how long the food product would be considered safe if it were to inadvertently be contaminated during the manufacturing process. Before choosing a food protection and quality solution, it’s important to understand what your microbial challenges will be. There’s two possible sources where the bacteria can enter your process. Either through your raw materials or through your manufacturing environment. In this slide, I will walk through a comparison of microbial risks between animal and plant protein products. Because both products have high moisture and close to neutral pH, they make a great growing environment for bacteria. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the risks are quite similar between them.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

When we look at the raw materials, the microbial risks are similar because they are both coming from agricultural sources. While there may be some differences based on processing, the starting materials are still coming from the farm and fields. This means your major pathogen concerns would be spore formers such as Clostridium botulinum or Clostridium perfringens. You’ll also have the risk of vegetative pathogens, such as salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7. While most plant-based alternatives are produced using an extrusion process, which is high temperature and high pressure, that would be capable of reducing the microbial load, there are some studies which indicate spores, such as Clostridium are capable of surviving this process. So you’ll want to ensure you have hurdles in place to control it. When we consider the spoilage bacteria risks from raw materials, again, there are similarities, but the differentiating factor comes down to packaging. If your product is stored in a vacuum pack or modified atmospheric packaging, you could potentially have issues with Enterobacteriaceae and lactic acid bacteria.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

But if you weren’t using that packaging or vacuum packaging and your product was stored in an aerobic environment, then pseudomonas would be a spoilage organism of concern for you to be worried about. As we move into the manufacturing environment, both animal and plant protein products have validated heat treatment processes which would reduce the microbial load. The contamination risks we have listed here would be due to post heat treatment contamination. Your pathogen risk at this step in the process would be salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, and spoilage again from Enterobacteriaceae and lactic acid bacteria. It’s also important to note that some manufacturing facilities may also be shared. For example, a meat manufacturing plant could also be producing plant-based protein products. Ensuring good manufacturing practices are in place will reduce the potential for cross-contamination to occur. Kerry has a broad portfolio of food protection ingredients ranging from plant extracts to fermentation metabolites, to vinegar based solutions and protective cultures.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

Based on your level of experience with food safety, this is where we can really be a resource for you. Our expertise is in leveraging this expansive portfolio in partnership with our taste technology business to build functional, clean label, antimicrobial systems that solve even the most food protection and food quality challenges. We partner with our customers to understand the risk within their food products and have the ability to perform the microbial challenge studies needed to generate data that shows our ingredients work in the way our customers need them to. You’ll have most success in solving your food safety and food quality challenges by partnering with your ingredient suppliers early in the development process. Here is an example of a microbial challenge study that was performed in a plant-based burger patty. Listeria was chosen for this study because it’s been a challenge for the refrigerated food industry, as it’s capable of growing at refrigeration temperatures where other bacteria are unable to grow.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

The threshold at which we would consider food unsafe for listeria is that the three log mark, which has shown by the dotted black line. The red line that you see going up represents the meat analog with no preservatives added. It shows that listeria’s growth can exceed the limit of one log after only seven days of storage at proper refrigeration temperatures. It will continue to grow over a month storage. However, with only the addition of a small amount of vinegar powder at 0.5%, which is represented by the green line, you are able to control the outgrowth of listeria for at least 33 days. These types of studies help manufacturers determine that their food is safe. You can see that even a small amount of a clean label preservative can make a big difference and also increase the shelf life of the product by at least three weeks. Which additionally reduces the need to discard food and reduce food waste.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

As mentioned before, when determining the shelf life of a food product, the developer not only needs to consider the risks from pathogenic bacteria, but also those from spoilage bacteria that would negatively impact color and texture and taste as they begin to grow. Here’s another microbial challenge study which was performed in a plant-based burger patty again. In this study, we were focused on identifying a solution to control a mixture of lactic acid bacteria, and enterococcus spoilage organisms. Two different solutions were evaluated. One was a single ingredient solution of organic acids, and the other was a functional system comprising of organic acids and carbonyls. When it comes to spoilage bacteria, a level of six log CFU per gram would be considered spoilage. Again, that’s designated by the black dotted line. Both antimicrobial solutions were effective at delaying the outgrowth of the spoilage bacteria as compared to the control, which spoiled roughly at day seven. While you may be thinking that an increase of four days may not seem significant, you also need to consider that this is a challenge study, where the bacteria was intentionally added at a high level.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

In this case three log. In a production environment, the levels of contamination would be much lower. So the treatments with the antimicrobials would prevent the spoilage for much longer than 11 days. But for the purposes of this study, it is telling us that the antimicrobials chosen are capable of extending the product shelf life and either one could be selected as they have similar performance. Whether you have a product today that’s frozen and you’re looking to move into the refrigerated space, or you’re working on developing a new refrigerated product for the market, we would recommend taking an integrated approach. The first step is to identify your challenges and goals. This starts with deciding on what your application will be and considering how it would be processed. You’ll need to set a target for your shelf life goals, understand the regional regulations on where you’re planning to sell the product, and consider if there are certain ingredients that you do or do not want on your label. All of this information that will feed into your cost targets.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

Once you have the initial goals and targets in place, you’ll move into the technical considerations. This is the best time to start engaging with your food protection ingredient supplier. Together, you can perform the biological risk assessment related to the formulation, processing and packaging. That information then will be critical for the supplier to understand what ingredients in their portfolio would be most appropriate for your application goals. Once that solution has been identified, then you’ll work together to determine which type of test should be performed in order to confirm that you’ve met your success criteria. In most cases, it will be a microbial challenge study. The question is, are you able to do that yourself or is there a third-party study that you’ll need to engage with, or does your ingredient supplier have the capabilities to help you with that? Ultimately, before you launch your product, you’ll want to validate your solution with a production trial. There’s a diverse range of spoilage organisms in the Enterobacteriaceae and lactic acid bacteria families which will be introduced into your product through your production facility.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

A trial at the production scale is the way to truly test out performance of your food safety and food spoilage solution. After this work is completed, you’ll have full confidence in the success of your new product launch. Now I’ll be passing it back to Emma who will wrap up our conversation for today.

Emma Cahill:

Thanks Jennifer. As promised in the abstract, we wanted to deliver to you some actionable insights around food safety. To help protect consumer health, prevent product recalls and ensure brand protection. This falls under the headline of protecting food, and we believe that solving challenges is about more than ingredients. In addition to that, we wanted to cover how to get products from their freezer to the refrigerator, the scientific approach to adding hurdles covered by Jennifer. As you’ve seen today, the opportunity is much greater than this, by shelf life extension and preservation. This is a huge opportunity to improve the sustainability of plant-based protein by reducing food waste. As well as this, we can look at the sustainability of the processes. Looking at making them more efficient through cost reduction and another opportunity for shelf life extension. That switched to clean label, consumer-friendly ingredients that are so important to consumers around the world.

Emma Cahill:

Ensuring you’re able to use ingredients from nature that are backed by science. An extra layer given by expertise with partners who can deliver more from your product is tackling challenges that are more complex, like delivering taste, nutrition and appeal, protecting flavor over shelf life, reducing sodium, or ensuring the craveability of your plant-based burger. As we said, sodium reduction is a common challenge in the plant-based space. You might need help with flavor enhancement or access to no and low sodium preservation solutions. There’s lots of ambitious plant protein brands out there and tackling global and regional expansion can be challenging. Looking for compliance, you need regulatory expertise on a global supply chain you can trust. With that, I’ll hand over to Marika for the Q&A section. Thank you for your attention.

Marika:

Thank you so much, Emma, Renetta and Jennifer for that value packed wonderful presentation. A lot of incredibly helpful info in there. I’m glad that this is recorded so that our audience can go back and refer to it as much as possible. We have a lot of wonderful questions. I’m just going to kind of pick at random. We have 10 minutes. We’ll start with a anonymous question. Do you know at what point there is a change in perception from a chilled product, which is fresh, to something which is artificially extended? Can too much chilled shelf life be perceived as a negative? I believe Emma’s going to answer this question.

Emma Cahill:

Thanks, Marika. I’ll start with saying that this is around consumer sentiments, which are subjective. Which is why Kerry are constantly launching updated consumer research to probe into what makes consumers tick. The best answer I have is based on the personas of consumers that are consuming plant-based meat today, they’re looking for convenience that fits into their lives. They want to be able to treat it like meats. I would say the starting point is being able to match the shelf life that you get from meats. We hear anecdotally from consumers as part of our panels, they took something out of the freezer and from a convenience and busy life point of view, they didn’t get to cook it right away. They left it in the refrigerator for two or three days, and so it deteriorates. They said, “My meat product would have been fine for two days in the fridge. Why is it not the same?” Our best benchmark here, because it is subjective in consumers’ minds, is at least matching the familiar experience in terms of shelf life with meat. We do a lot of research, especially in my division in understanding consumer understanding of preservatives.

Emma Cahill:

The short answer is, they don’t fully understand them. They know that preservatives are scary and they see things in the media with unfamiliar names, and some of them even come with potential health risks. But they don’t understand what ingredients are in there from a preservation point of view. That’s why consumer friendly labels and education can help. It’s that trust piece where the consumer picks up the packets, looks at the ingredients, feels that they’re familiar and trustworthy. And that the shelf life is long enough to fit into their lives, but not long enough to be completely suspicious. [inaudible 00:50:37].

Marika:

Thank you so much for answering that, Emma. We have a couple of questions on fermentation and this one is longer, but the meat of it, no pun intended, is, is it possible to … Sorry. Is it possible to provide truly fresh, preservative free plant-based meat products to the population? I don’t know if any one wants to take that one.

Emma Cahill:

I would say Renetta. Would you be best placed to give that one a go?

Renetta Cooper:

Certainly, Emma. Is it truly possible to provide fresh plant-based meat products to the consumer? I think it touches back a little bit on what Emma said, is trying to make sure we understand what is fresh in the eyes of the consumer. I think there’s this window, I think there are a lot of products that have a very long shelf life but they do tend to lose quality over time. It would be good to find that balance between a high quality product with an appearance and flavor that is what is expected and the shelf life is reasonable. That, I believe is very achievable. If you think back to the slide that Jennifer showed with the challenge studies, having something that is only going to last three or four days versus something that is going to last 10, I think those are the windows of opportunity where you can have a good shelf life. So longer than three or four days, but not so long that you’re starting to see quality that it really doesn’t give you the impression that that product is fresh.

Marika:

Thank you so much.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

Just to jump in there, I think also because I know the comment of fermented products while this isn’t an area that I’d say I have a lot of expertise on. If we consider say fresh vegetables that gets stored in a frozen format, the reason they have to be blanched prior to that is because enzymes are actually certain ones are still active at the frozen temperature. I would see to answer the question about an unpasteurized fermented product that you would need to perform your own shelf life studies to make sure that the enzymes that are still active in your culture are not active at a frozen temperature. But we do know enzymes can be active even at low temperatures like that.

Marika:

Thank you so much, Jennifer. Another one for Emma is … Sorry. Do you know what … I already asked that one. My apologies. Just trying to make sure I cover all areas. We have a question about organic products. If we produced all raw materials in alternative meat organically, can we call it organic alternative meat? How can we ensure the authenticity of the produced alternative meat as organic?

Emma Cahill:

That might be a question for our regulatory team to be honest.

Marika:

Wonderful.

Emma Cahill:

Okay.

Marika:

Yeah.

Emma Cahill:

It’s okay. I did see one come through that how could we effectively communicate that a product has no secondary shelf life without discouraging a consumer from buying it. This is not unique to the plant-based space. You will see a lot of products come through across all categories of food and beverage that might be on ambient storage until they’re opened. Then once they’re opened, there’s a message on the packet, refrigerate after opening, the will keep for seven days after shelf life. Usually in condiments, this can be very surprising to consumers. That’s something that can be ambience and closed and live in their cupboard for one year once it’s opened, there’ll be used within one week use within 30 days. I would say that that’s the most effective way to communicate this to consumers without putting them off from buying it. It’s things like processes and packaging that might give you that shelf life that’s there until it’s opened. Then just effectively communicating what shelf life is there after it’s opened, so it’s not a surprise.

Marika:

Thank you, Emma. That was the one I was looking for. You could see me frantically scrolling to find it. Now we have a question. You mentioned this a couple of times in the presentation, just why is sodium reduction a problem?

Emma Cahill:

Okay. I will start this and my technical colleagues can jump in and help me out. But essentially, it’s not only about adding salt for taste. A lot of the preservatives out there are sodium based, so they do contribute sodium to the final formulation. If you’re already using sodium or sodium based products to enhance the taste of plant-based, because if consumers are trying to replicate that animal meat experience, they’re used to quite salty processed meats in my experience. You’re trying to protect the taste, but match the nutritionals to consumer expectations. If your preservative solution is adding further sodium, it can put sodium above the threshold. We even see this in certain markets where there are regulations to limit the amount of sodium per 100 grams of product, for example. We are always looking to provide solutions that have no and low sodium contribution. So when you’re formulating you only have to worry about the taste contribution of sodium in a positive way versus extra sodium coming in from your preservative solution. But Jennifer and Renetta, feel free to add your own comments.

Jennifer Wasieleski:

Emma, I think you’ve covered it well.

Emma Cahill:

Yeah.

Marika:

Great. I guess this probably will be our last question. Can you provide examples of functional systems and when AM typically applied at food production plants? Not sure I actually … Does that make sense?

Emma Cahill:

It does.

Marika:

Okay. It’s not my expertise.

Emma Cahill:

That’s okay. I think the question is asking about combinations of ingredients that might be seeking to have that additive effect for shelf life. I would say AM stands for antimicrobials in the question. Do you guys want to let me go with this or one of you jump in? I’ll keep going. These can be combinations that have different modes of action on spoilage or pathogenic microbials. We could combine solutions that are made from different things like fermentation or from plants. It could be a combination of vinegar with carbonyls, like you saw on the data that Jennifer presented. Things that are peptide based or organic acid based. I’m trying to think of other great examples here, but the idea is that you’re having an action in two ways. Something that might have a really strong impact on pathogens combined with something else that has a really strong impact on mold and yeast and other spoilage microorganisms are coming together and completing each other with an additive, like one plus one equals three, kind of. Where just coming together in a positive way to help protect and extend shelf life.

Emma Cahill:

The idea of using two solutions together is they usually can come in at lower dosage and still have a better impact on sensory nutritionals than a strong dose of one single ingredient.

Marika:

Thank you so much. I know we’re at time, so I’m sorry we didn’t get to all the questions. They’re amazing questions. I just wanted to thank you again to our wonderful presenters for sharing your time and expertise with us. I know I learned a lot. As a reminder, just be on the lookout for our post-webinar email and be sure to check out gfi.org/events to stay up to date with all GFI events and other industry events of interest. Our next webinar will be on May 13th at 12:00 PM Eastern time. We’ll be joined by industry consultant, Mark Warner, to discuss contract manufacturing and fermentation. We’ll also be hosting a state of the industry webinar series in May, which will share key insights from our forthcoming state of the industry reports for each pillar of alternative proteins. We look forward to seeing you next month. Have a wonderful day, and thank you again to Kerry and our presenters.