Gelatin Substitute Made From Peas Emerges From University of Alberta

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Researchers have developed a novel plant-based substitute for gelatin derived from pea protein.

Dr. Lingyun Chen and her team at the University of Alberta, who created the pea protein gelatin say the new product, currently in the patent-pending stage, showcases enhanced protein content compared to other existing plant-based gelatin alternatives such as pectin.

What sets the new product apart from other gelatin substitutes is its unique ‘thermal reversibility’ feature — the ability to transition effortlessly between liquid and gel forms and vice versa, the researchers noted.

Accidental discovery

The Univeristy of Alberta team says the discovery occurred by accident during an experiment when the team realized that certain conditions, like changes in pH, resulted in creating the gelatin. The team says it boasts industrial applications that mimic conventional gelatin, which is made from animal cartilage and bones.

Courtesy Pexels

The newly discovered substitute could usher in a new era in the food industry by providing a plant-based alternative to gelatin used as a thickening agent in various food products, including soups, sauces, candies, and dietary supplements.

Dr. Chen is currently collaborating with a multinational leader specializing in plant-based ingredients, using Canadian-grown peas as the primary ingredient. With an injection of $78,430 from Natural Products Canada (NPC), they are assessing the performance of the pea protein-based gelatin substitute in real-food applications and testing its scalability.

The global market for sustainable gelatin

“There is a huge global market for a plant-based gelatin substitute right now,” Chen said. The demand comes not only from vegans and vegetarians looking for an alternative but also from the growing Muslim population seeking Halal options and a general interest in sustainable food systems.

Geltor's biodientical collagen
Geltor’s biodientical collagen | Courtesy

A number of food tech companies have been working to create a more sustainable and ethical gelatin market. Chiefly, California’s Geltor has raised more than $116 million for its bioidentical gelatin and collagen products.


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