Overview: This research theme addresses the challenges of transitioning from animal proteins to more sustainable plant and other alternative proteins, driven by consumer perceptions around nutrition, health, animal welfare and the sustainability of food production. This transition can take place either by turning plant proteins into food products that mimic animal product functionality and nutritional quality or by consuming foods that contain some animal protein but proportionately more plant protein. The latter option becomes a sustainable alternative with a lower environmental footprint and it also provides significant opportunities for the New Zealand animal protein industry to become directly involved in the development of new products from diversified protein sources.

There are three research projects under this theme:

Project 2.1: Novel processing to enhance plant protein functionality and utilisation.
Project leaders Prof Indrawati Oey and Dr Kevin Sutton
This project will further our understanding of the potential for future food products using plant proteins that have been modified to become more nutritious, palatable and appealing, and focuses on protein sources that are of interest to future New Zealand agricultural systems, such as quinoa, hemp, flaxseed, tree nuts, algae and pasture legumes.

Project 2.2: Combinatorial proteins: Understanding the functionality and nutritional impact of composite proteins.
Project leaders Dist Prof Paul Moughan and Prof Aiqian Ye
This project will investigate new ways to extend the use of animal-based proteins by developing a fundamental understanding of their interactions with plant and algal proteins.

Project 2.3: Future proteins and consumer engagement
Project leaders Prof Joanne Hort and Dr Sara Jaeger
This project utilises multiple strands of research focusing on consumers – what people like or do not like, and how to measure it – to look ahead to the development of more successful plant protein products in the future.