FFW develops yeast-based protein foods as an alternative to soy and pea protein

FFW has a double meaning: the letters stand for “food for the world” and is the abbreviation for “fast forward”. These two references refer to the work carried out by the Israeli start-up to develop a new plant-based alternative to meat.

Yet rather than jumping on the soy, pea protein or seitan bandwagon, FFW turns to yeast for inspiration, said founder Leonardo Marcovitz.

Yeast: a new competitor in vegetable proteins?

Having stopped eating most animal products two years ago, Marcovitz wanted to help others reduce their consumption of animal foods. While researching the market for meat analogues, the founder found that it was largely dominated by a small handful of ingredients.

“I have noticed that the ‘king and queen’ of the ingredients in this space are soy and pea protein. Oh, and they have a little child called seitan ”, he said, referring to the wheat gluten-based meat substitute.

However, the “king” – soybeans – has some problems, according to Marcovitz. Not only is soy allergy considered one of the most common food allergies, uncontrolled farming practices in South America have linked this product to deforestation and loss of biodiversity. “In the West, it has negative connotations and perceptions”, he told FoodNavigator at FoodTech IL in September.

Pea protein, the “queen” ingredient in herbal plants, is “making an appearance,” continued the founder of FFW. Still, it has a “very strong taste” that requires additional processing to mask it. “This increases the price of the isolate used in the final product and also makes it less available.”

In search of an alternative to these ingredients, Marcovitz – who has a background in biomedical engineering – began experimenting with yeast.

“Why doesn’t everyone use it as a source of protein? “

Yeast is sort of a miracle ingredient. It contains 50% protein and all essential amino acids. In addition, yeast is readily available, has a relatively good absorption rate, and is cost effective.

“So if it’s so good, why isn’t everyone using it as a source of protein?” ” asked Marcovitz rhetorically. The answer is twofold, explained the founder. Yeast has a “very strong umami flavor” which may work in its favor when used as a food additive, but counteracts it when it places the yeast in the center of the plate as “the main source of yeast.” proteins ”.

The other barrier is texture. “No one has publicly worked to produce texture with yeast as the primary source of protein, so that’s what FFW is doing: figuring out how to texturize and formulate the yeast to create the end product.

“We’ve come a long way, we already have some great samples, and in the next few months we’ll be launching a product.”

FFW has developed a high protein yeast product to help consumers reduce their meat consumption © FFW

To imitate or not to imitate?

While FWW works with its base material – most similar to chicken breast or pulled chicken – it still determines how it will market its finished product. Prototypes to date have included imitation chicken strips, which contain around 25% protein, and dried crisps, which contain around 45% protein.

“Are we going for a chicken nugget or chicken strips?” “The alternative would be to get out of the analog meat space and produce some sort of new category all together.

“That’s the conversation we’re having right now, whether we choose an analogue or … let’s say it’s a ‘high protein, high fiber, tasty and warmable product’ and not necessarily for the analogy of the chicken.”

Marcovitz is not convinced that a continued reference to meat, such as “chicken analogue” or “beef analogue” for example, is the best way forward. “I’m personally interested in… not necessarily imitating meat or even using the word. If we continue [referring to meat analogues] we are also creating a “gold standard” for [meat] being the king, and [imitation] the products being secondary.

FWW is awaiting the results of its own consumer survey before making a final decision.

The “handy fruit” of catering

FFW’s intellectual property is to determine which proteins should be combined in which ratios. While Marcovitz was low-key about the process and the ingredient list, he said the key ingredient in his products was yeast, alongside “something similar” to sunflower protein.

The start-up is working with third parties to source custom inactivated yeast for production and in the future will “likely” use spent brewer’s yeast.

“We are now elevating our seed cycle to increase production, scale and traction”, he continued, adding that to begin with, FWW will be looking to sell B2B. “Initially, we want to target the restaurant market [for the] commercial capital, [but] there is also a strong demand in space at the moment ”, he added, describing the sector as a “fruit at hand”.

And in terms of geography, FWW plans to skip Israel and directly target Europe and the United States. “There is a big [plant-based] trend in these western countries, where flexitarians want to reduce their animal consumption.

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Tanya S. Norvell

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