FIE Innovation Award winners on solutions in plant-based fat: ‘We'll help advance the whole food sector'

MirrorTissue was designed by the European arm of Colombian multinational Alianza Team, in collaboration with Italian plant-based food developer Hi-Food (part of Luxembourg-based CSM Ingredients).  

The advanced version of MirrorTissue combines Alianza Team’s plant-based fats with Hi-Food’s proprietary proteins and plant fibres, which, it says, enhances the protein’s stability.  

“Today MirrorTissue comprises a group of oil-based solutions designed to mimic the functional, structural, and sensory attributes that animal extra-muscular adipose tissue provides, by improving the texture of meat analog products,” CSM Ingredients CEO Aldo Uva told FoodNavigator.

“It is a very user-friendly product because it can be handled as a normal block of fat: it can be ground, sliced, cubed and mixed to the rest of the ingredients like a classic fat.

“MirrorTissue is a technology platform: by modifying process parameters and adjusting ingredients ratios, it is possible to create different types of MirrorTissue, suitable for different applications: from cheese analogs to plant-based yogurts, from bakery to pastry products.”

Winning the award, said Uva, cements the importance of collaboration in the food industry, with both Alianza Team and Hi-Food bringing their own unique attributes to the development of the protein.

“The win is a confirmation of the right business choice in investing and developing on innovation platforms such as value-added fats and value-added proteins and fibres,” added CSM Ingredients CGO Christian Sobolta, 

Solving the plant-based fat problem

Fat is one of the most important attributes of any plant-based meat substitute. Essential for texture, it is a key component of the body of the product.

MirrorTissue, according to Sobolta, “imitates the marbling of animal meat by improving the texture of meat analog products, providing key sensory attributes such as appearance, juiciness, flavour release, and full-body mouthfeel.”

It is, CEO Uva told FoodNavigator, “a solution that allows us to address one of the most relevant issues of the plant-based meat alternatives industry: getting these products to look, taste and smell great, just like the originals.”

The protein has been developed in response to a problem in plant-based meat: usually fats are replaced by tropical fats from palm and coconut, which melts and leaks from products during the cooking process, affecting their juiciness. By contrast, MirrorTissue contains no tropical oils.

Uva, Sobolta and HIFOOD chief R&I Officer Emanuele Pizzigalli accept the award. Image Source: CSM Ingredients

“The product aims to serve sectors such as the plant-based alt-meat one – which traditionally relied on tropical fats (such as coconut and palm fat) to give the finished products a satisfying appearance, texture, and taste, or other protein emulsions that often include unwanted ingredients such as monoglycerides, chemically modified cellulose, gums, soy proteins (which contain allergens), or other additives,” said Uva.

Additional benefits to the protein include, according to Uva, that it is easily scalable, made of ‘well-known, label-friendly ingredients,’ user-friendly for food processors, and it is already available on the market.

“Last but not least,” Uva told us, “Alianza Team is located at the apex of the supply chain, working oils directly at the source, without having other players in the middle; this allows us to have the product at the best possible price.”

Allergen-free and clean label

“Thanks to the integration of our proprietary technology,” CGO Sobolta said, “based on allergen-free plant proteins and soluble plant fibre obtained from oilseeds, the emulsion is allergen-free and can be used in a wide range of applications for all consumer needs. There are no chemical emulsifiers nor modified celluloses, and the solution is made with ingredients of natural origin only.”

Making MirrorTissue allergen free was essential to the product being suitable for the whole food industry. “Our allergen-free solutions were one of the attributes that we brought to the table at the beginning of our working relationship with Alianza Team Europe,” said Uva. “And one of the features that were key in securing the advanced version of MirrorTissue.

“Indeed, our joint purpose is to help advance the whole food sector, and we can do so only if we develop solutions that are truly beneficial to the whole population, with no exceptions.”

Alongside this, one version of the product is clean-label. “Hi-Food was born from the very start with the aim of developing ground-breaking, tailored ingredients of natural origin to help address the biggest challenges and opportunities in the food sector, so for us it is basically part of our day-to-day business,” said Uva.

Stabilising the product

While MirrorTissue is based on Alianza Teams’ plant-based lipid fats solution, the award-winning advanced version is enhanced with Hi-Food’s proprietary proteins, according to the company.

“In simple words,” Sobolta told us, “our proteins allow oil and water to be together in a stable way.

“Our innovative pea proteins, called Micro Proteins due to their specific physical size and dispersibility, obtained via proprietary physical processes, play the role of natural stabilizers and emulsifiers. Typically, the oil/fat droplets are stabilized by a thin layer of protein adsorbed at the oil–water interface.”

The addition of plant fibres also maximise the stability of the product. “Thanks to their specific water binding capacity and swelling properties once solubilized in the water phase, they protect the emulsion droplets against coalescence. Fibres contribute also to the texture of MirrorTissue, driving parameters like hardness, resilience and gumminess.”