We talked to Henrik Hetzer about the future of plant-based food. As the managing director of Loryma, Hetzer says he is convinced that his company must continue to broaden the scope of its meat alternatives in order to maintain sustainability goals, both for the business and the future of the planet.
Loryma, a subsidiary of the Crespel & Deiters Group, specialises in the production of wheat proteins, wheat starches, extrudates and wheat-based functional blends, and is presently attending the IFT in Chicago for the first time, which takes place 10-13 July.
Would you say that the food industry is in a state of great change?
A predominantly plant-based diet was a fringe phenomenon just ten years ago. Back then, at a barbecue you’d be lucky if there was a bland tofu sausage. Today, plant-based nutrition has fully arrived in the middle of society. Consumers want more sustainably produced food and have become increasingly demanding as a result. When it comes to taste, texture and nutritional values, both vegetarians, vegans and the growing group of flexitarians are not willing to compromise. And why should they?
What are the current challenges in the production of meat alternatives?
Optimising the nutritional value of meat alternatives is certainly a major issue at the moment. Consumers want plant-based products that are as close as possible to their meat-based counterparts, and with a comparable protein content too.
At this year’s IFFA, we presented our new concept for a vegan mortadella, which was very well received by visitors. Our sample recipe contains 12% protein thanks to hydrolysed wheat protein. During tastings, the texture and mouthfeel, which we achieved with the help of a special wheat-based binding component, also impressed the participants. With application concepts like these, we want to show that functional ingredients can achieve a lot from a technological point of view, while also contributing to a clean label. That’s important because a glance at the list of ingredients can have a huge impact on subsequent consumer purchasing decisions.
What distinguishes Loryma from other suppliers?
We see ourselves not only as a producer and supplier of ingredients, but also a provider of ideas and practical assistance throughout the production process. Creating convincing, successful, plant-based foods means keeping an eye on both current and future trends, and this is where we also support our customers. We are constantly developing new application concepts that can be adapted by our customers and used as a basis for their own creations. Ease of handling and feasibility are central to our products, and no special equipment is required.
“Sophisticated, exciting results are possible when you know how”
Sophisticated, exciting results are possible when you know how – take our vegan chicken leg, for example. It gets its highly convincing, yet vegetable-based skin through a conventional coating process. The meat alternative made from wheat textures remains juicy on the inside, while the outer skin becomes crispy during frying. From a visual and sensory perspective, the result is hardly distinguishable from the original. This is a concept not previously available on the market in this form.
We also differentiate ourselves from other companies by focusing solely on wheat. Loryma belongs to the Crespel & Deiters Group, which has specialised in solutions made from this raw material for more than 160 years. To ensure sufficient production capacity and the highest quality, as many processing steps as possible happen within the group: from sourcing and basic research to refining, extrusion and product development. This is what we want to highlight at IFT in Chicago this month.
Any plans stateside?
Yes, absolutely. Our presentation at IFT FIRST will be the prelude to extended business relations in North America, as next year we are opening a US subsidiary in Chicago. The focus of our presentation will be our TVP, the textured wheat proteins of the Lory® Tex range. The latest addition to our texturate range is Lory® Tex Granules MCF 340, with a particularly firm texture and clean label.
We also have audiovisual material to demonstrate the application concepts created by our R&D team to inspire manufacturers. We hope to meet great people at the fair and I’m very excited to be in attendance with my team. So we would love lots of visitors to drop by and say hello!
Wheat texturates are a core product of Loryma. what are the advantages?
Lory® Tex is a dry texturate, which makes it easy to store and cost-effective to transport. During processing, a meat-like structure is formed after only a short swelling time. Depending on the shape and colour of the product, it can mimic chicken breast or ground beef, for example. The amount of water added determines the firmness. By combining different Lory® Tex types, there are no limits when it comes to achieving the exact texture specific to the application. That said, meat does not always have to be replaced in its entirety, as hybrid products with a reduced meat content are also possible. In addition to its texturising properties, the Lory® Tex range also improves the nutritional properties of end products, as the texturates are a source of pure vegetable protein.
How do wheat-based texturates differ from other products on the market?
Unlike products based on other raw materials, all our ingredients are completely neutral in sensory terms and therefore serve as ideal flavour carriers for individual seasoning. Additionally, Lory® Tex is texture-stable in the autoclave. Something else that sets us apart from other ingredient companies is the wide range of products that we offer: Thanks to the extrusion expertise within our group of companies, we can provide various shapes and sizes of texturates, and even develop individual properties tailored to specific customer projects. Earlier this year, we even increased production capacity to meet current high demand.
Speaking of high demand, is Loryma affected by the wheat shortage?
There’s no denying that the wheat market is currently very volatile. However, we source at least 75 per cent of our wheat – and that figure is currently much higher – from Germany, with the rest coming from other European countries. That, combined with long-standing contractual partnerships and forward-looking storage, means we have largely been able to avoid supply bottlenecks in the past and look set to continue to do so, despite the complexity of the current situation.
Some people avoid wheat as a result of health concerns, does this worry you?
No, gluten intolerance and coeliac disease are serious conditions, but fortunately, only about one per cent of the world’s population is affected. For everyone else, there is no risk at all. On the contrary, wheat contains valuable nutrients and minerals, and is a high-quality vegetable protein source. By concentrating on “our” raw material, we not only make use of our existing knowledge, but also continue to explore exciting new possibilities. In terms of sustainability, wheat can score points due to its regional availability, with short distances minimising transport emissions.
“wheat contains valuable nutrients and minerals, and is a high-quality vegetable protein source”
For both starch- and protein-rich fractions of the wheat grain, there are many areas of application in the food industry. But they can also be used, for example, as a basis for adhesives. If you include co-products, we utilise every grain of wheat almost entirely. So, after all these years of working with wheat, it still continues to inspire me time in terms of its culinary, technical and ecological appeal.