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Südzucker: How to solve a future protein shortage and guarantee a healthy nutrition with protein

Dr. Alain Graf working at CRDS Bioconversion & Downstream Processing at Südzucker AG shares his view on the bio-based economy and the protein challenge. The biobased economy is one of the priority areas in the EU creating a huge potential for future growth and showing a viable route to answer the big global challenges. Südzucker AG is a also a member of the research PROMINENT consortium (

How to supply projected 8 billion people in 2025 with energy, goods and food?
More specifically, how to solve the imminent protein shortage in the next decades and guarantee a healthy nutrition with protein? From sustainability point of view, there can only be one answer: Valorize and utilize existing protein sources most efficiently and increase direct food use of plant proteins. Südzucker is playing an active role “from farm to fork” with its increasing cereal biorefinery facilities. State-of-the-art process technologies already enable us to fractionate and bioconvert cereal compounds and recover valuable products like starch, protein and bioethanol. But there are yet substantial volumes of protein streams which are currently not fully exploited for human food application. They are mainly used as feed and for energy use.

Within Südzucker R&D, we persue the strategy to expand the cereal biorefinery concept with new plant protein outlets for food applications. A high quality standard is required – nutritional and techno-functional benefits of less sustainable animal proteins, like egg and milk proteins, are a high benchmark. To valorize competitive plant proteins with preserved valuable properties, adapted process technological concepts are the key.

That is why Südzucker are highly engaged in the EU-funded project ProMinENT together with excellent partners from industry and academia. Along the value chain, protein isolation technologies – covering wet and dry fractionation, enzymatic bioprocessing, membrane processing and expanded bed adsorption – are studied to valorize cereal food protein products.

In the initial phase promising protein side-streams from wheat and rice processing were identified and first prototypes were obtained, which appear to be very interesting alternatives to animal proteins. The integration of these novel process technological concepts into the cereal biorefinery could significantly contribute to meet the consumers’ demand for healthy, sustainable, secure and well tasting protein products.

The aim of the research partnership PROMINENT is to develop techno-economically and environmentally viable protein ingredients and foods from wheat & rice side streams. Participants in PROMINENT are: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (project leader), Südzucker AG, AB Enzymes, Upfront, United Biscuits, Barilla, Olvi, LUKE and Bridge2Food.

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> Disintegration, fractionation and extraction technologies: bioprocessing, dry and wet milling, air classification, novel extraction solvents, membrane separation, expanded bed adsorption
> Enzymatic and thermo-mechanical methods to improve techno-functional and sensory properties of protein ingredients
> Applications: pasta, biscuits, cakes and beverages.
> Assessment of quality, techno-economic feasibility, sustainability and market potential.
> Designing strategies for marketing, dissemination, and exploitation of innovations.

This 3 year project with a value of € 3.1 Million (2015-2018) has received funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 668953− PROMINENT.