Opportunities and Challenges in Processing Plant-Based Protein with Twin Screw Extrusion

Julie Prost, Process Engineer and Pilot Plant Manager at Clextral USA will be presenting the talk “Meat-Free Pieces: A Product Outlook from a Processing View” at the 3rd Plant-Based Foods Course to be held in Las Vegas, USA, 14-16 October. Julie shares her vision on the future of proteins.

What can you tell us about the content of your presentation and your experiences?

I will discuss how the twin screw extrusion process transforms plant proteins into vegetarian meats that are supplying the rapidly growing meat alternative market. We call it High Moisture Extrusion Cooking (HMEC), also known as protein fibration. These products look and taste like real meat, offering consumers a familiar food choice without the ethical and environmental impacts of meat and fish farming.

As the pilot plant manager at Clextral USA, I work with our customers in the development of plant protein products and I see every day how the twin screw extrusion process offers the flexibility and processing capability to reach their product goals. And plant-based protein is not only used in HMEC applications, we also see a lot of interest in TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein), snacks, and breakfast cereals.

What is your sweet spot and personal interest in the transition based on your role or background?

As a food industry professional, I am happy to be working in an area that is bringing new and sustainable solutions to feeding the world’s population. As a process engineer, I am fascinated by the extrusion processing technology that carries out the transformation of the plant protein fibers to create the fibrous meat textures. During development there are many factors we consider, and it is always interesting to see the results when we manipulate the production parameters to make different fibers and textures.

What role does your organization play in the protein transition?

Clextral’s twin screw technology produces ready-to-eat ingredients for food preparations, and they can also be further processed, just like meat. We work directly with our customers’ R&D teams and provide our expertise during their product development. 

What do you see as barriers to plant protein transition and how should we tackle them as a society?

In some parts of the world, meat is a luxury, and as people achieve greater wealth, they prefer to eat and serve meat as it demonstrates their success. With marketing and education, it may be possible to change these traditions. Also, meat and seafood producers may see plant protein products as a threat to their market. However, these producers can grow their markets by adding plant protein foods to their product lines. We work with processors to demonstrate this opportunity. The further processing systems that are utilized in the meat, poultry and seafood industries can be duplicated to process extruded meat analogs into finished products. These processors already know and use this technology which can ease the transition to plant based products. Finally, the extrusion platform can utilize animal and plant protein, offering the opportunity to make value-added products from lesser-grade meat and seafood. 

What is your latest innovation? 

Clextral has developed proprietary technology to create plant protein foods that closely mimic chicken, beef and pork, including the texture, muscle fiber and tensile strength. Processors can benefit from our expertise, and consumers are already enjoying the results of our work with industry leading companies.

Our pilot plant facility helps a lot of our customers. It is a great tool to learn about extrusion, develop new product or improve the quality of existing products.

How do you see the plant based market growing?

Industry experts have predicted the US market will reach $5.2 billion by 2020. As consumers are increasingly seeking meat alternatives with healthy attributes, we expect the market will continue to grow.

Clextral pioneered HMEC (High Moisture Extrusion Cooking) also called protein fibration was granted a patent for the process in 2001. Since that time, we have worked with universities, research centers, and companies around the world developing and perfecting the production of plant protein products using twin screw extrusion. This year, we co-hosted a Twin Screw Extrusion Workshop for Plant-Based Products with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc.

About Julie Prost
After completing a two year university degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry at the University of Saint Etienne, Julie obtained an Engineering diploma in Food Science at the National Institute of Agronomic Sciences of Food and Environment, before moving on to a Masters on improving the quality of product made by extrusion for Clextral SAS. Since then, she has risen to the position of process engineer in food industry, firstly at Clextral SAS, France, and currently for Clextral INC, in the US, since 2016. She has a broad expertise in plant protein applications by working on R&D or customer projects and testing since 3 years. She is now responsible of the Clextral pilot plant located in Tampa, Florida.


About the 3rd Plant-Based Foods Course, 14-16 Oct., Las Vegas (USA)

The Course “Plant-Based Foods” is designed to give participants a theoretical and practical overview of best innovations in meat-free, dairy-free & plant-based beverages.


  • Best Plant-Based Foods Course in class with 2 Tracks on developing the best Meat-Free & Snacks and Dairy-Free & Beverages
  • Focus presentations: Trends, New applications, New ingredients, Stabilizers, Fats & Oils, New Processing Technologies, Delivery Formats
  • Target audience: Food, Food Ingredients & Food Service Industries
  • Combining theory & practice by Plant-Based Foods Course Industry Experts
  • Participation: 150+ experts. Exhibition: 30 places

Register Here