Research Priorities

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Top 6 Research Priorities

Current top six research priorities of the center are (Updated August 2022):

Research priority #1: Screen, identify, and characterize the flavor/sensory perception, functionality, and nutrition of plant proteins as impacted by various extraction and processing conditions in comparison to common protein ingredients

Focus Areas:

  1. Identifying unique functionality and developing novel and acceptable plant protein food products that don't necessarily mimic dairy and meat
  2. Developing prediction models to link structure to function to better understand batch to batch variability
  3. Investigating plant proteins with PDCAAS greater than 0.8, and characterizing their flavor, antinutrients, and functionality (e.g., sunflower, canola protein)
  4. Identifying physiological/biological contributions of various nutrients and components in plant protein ingredients/foods
  5. Measuring satiety produced by different protein systems; are all proteins equally satiating?


Research Priority #2: Investigate cleaner plant protein processing techniques that have less environmental impact, while preserving or improving functionality, flavor, and nutritional quality

Focus Areas:

  1. Developing clean protein extraction and/or functionalization protocols to preserve structure and/or nutritional quality, and eliminate antinutrients, color, and/or offensive flavor
  2. Developing a model to determine cost, industry feasibility, and greenhouse gas impact of cleaner plant protein processing techniques
  3. Using non-thermal processing technologies to modify the structure and functionality of plant proteins (e.g., ultrasound, cold-plasma, pH shifting, pressure, and combination of technologies)
  4. Identifying solvent-free defatting technologies for plant protein processing


Research Priority #3: Determine flavor and protein interactions in various systems and identify ways to mitigate loss of flavor and/or development of off-flavors during processing and storage

Focus Areas:

  1. Developing pre-treatments (e.g., fermentation or enzymatic modification) and protein extraction protocols to eliminate offensive flavor
  2. Exploring successful flavoring of plant protein formulations
  3. Investigating amino acid profile of plant proteins and its impact on flavor interactions
  4. Exploring a systematic approach to determine of flavor development at each step during protein extraction/processing, while considering flavor precursors, fat content, and/or fatty acid composition.
  5. Developing prediction model to determine flavor development during storage.
  6. Mapping off-flavor compounds across plant protein sources
  7. Improving the inherent protein content/quality and flavor profile of plant protein sources through selective breeding methods.


Research Priority #4: Enhance protein content and functionality, nutrition, and flavor through agricultural technologies

Focus Areas:

  1. Identifying of new raw materials, available to grow economically, have adequate protein quality and functionality and inherently taste good or be possible to flavor in a manner that meets market needs
  2. Improving the inherent protein content/quality and flavor profile of plant protein sources through selective breeding methods.
  3. Developing extraction protocols to produce functional protein ingredients from environmentally sustainable sources


Research Priority #5: Investigate potential increases in functionality via blending of plant proteins, while maintaining or improving nutritional quality

Focus Areas:

  1. Determining the impact of blending proteins from different sources on flavor, functionality, and nutrition in various applications
  2. Identifying plant protein blends with a PDCAAS greater than 0.8, with balanced functional properties


Research Priority #6: Upcycling of plant by-products and side streams

Focus Areas:

  1. Investigating the re-cycling of side streams back into final plant protein products to enhance structural and sensory properties
  2. Identifying novel use of byproducts and side streams from plant protein processing
  3. Characterizing structural and functional properties of carbohydrate rich side streams
  4. Valorizing cereal proteins: Proteins from corn and other cereal sources that are considered “side streams” in conventional cereal processing for value-added applications


Research on the following proteins is encouraged: pulses, ancient grains, cereals, oilseeds, and hemp protein


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