The biofunctional properties of Burcon's protein products in light of potential value-added health benefits will be under scrutiny as the Fraunhofer Institute conducts experiments on Burcon's behalf.
Virgin canola proteins and partly modified canola proteins will be the subjects of the investigation. Their blood cholesterol lowering activity (bile acid binding) and antioxidant activity have been well documented and scientists expect to use in vitro (test tube) studies, which will look for positive correlations to known in vivo (living organism) studies.
Other investigations will include testing against standard food ingredients and selected pharmaceuticals as benchmarks.
Demand for vegetable protein products has also increased in recent months as a result of sharp increases in animal protein products, Burcon said. Dried egg white prices, for example, are at an all-time high, the company said. Recent crises such as the avian flu outbreak and new BSE discoveries have further fuelled consumers' desires for plant-based alternatives to animal products, Burcon said.
Johann F.Tergesen, Burcon's president & COO said: "We are continually looking for ways to increase the potential applications and consumer appeal of Puratein and Supertein. It will benefit Burcon and ADM, our partner, if this research leads to greater future sales of our proteins."
Protein ingredients are used in a wide variety of foods and personal care products. The protein ingredient industry is currently experiencing rapid growth and estimates place the global market in excess of $10 billion.
The Institute was at the time asked to compare the functional properties of the canola protein isolates with commercial benchmarks including milk proteins (such as Na-Caseinate), soy protein isolates and egg proteins (ovalbumin and egg yolk).
The Fraunhofer report showed that the canola protein isolates had an exceptional purity and that they were almost 100 per cent soluble in neutral conditions. Supertein was also found have good solubility in acidic settings.
Both proteins were shown to have an emulsification capacity and emulsification activity comparable to egg yolk and better than Na-caseinate under certain conditions, while Supertein was also shown to have very good whipping properties - better even than ovalbumin (egg-white). Supertein also had a stable low-level of viscosity, a valuable attribute for some food system applications as well as certain nutritional applications, according to the report.
Both Puratein and Supertein showed better gel-forming properties and higher gel strengths than the reference soy protein used.
Dairy and egg proteins achieve high selling prices, in large part because of their excellent functional characteristics, Burcon said at the time, another indication that the two products have significant revenue potential.
According to a report from market research firm Frost & Sullivan, the US protein market alone was worth $2.64 billion in 2002, with plant proteins making up 47 per cent of total revenue and the balance coming from animal proteins.
Soy protein accounted for approximately 76 per cent of the plant protein side of the market, while milk proteins were the dominant animal protein.