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Interview: Yeast protein – a sustainable solution to the global protein crisis

In this interview, Angel Yeast Europe’s global product manager, Winston Sun, explores the global protein crisis and highlights yeast protein as a sustainable solution. The company’s innovative approach to yeast protein production addresses environmental concerns while meeting nutritional demands. The versatility of yeast protein extends beyond traditional uses, offering applications in various food sectors. Sun tells us more.

What are the United Nations' predictions for global population growth?

The United Nations predicts that the global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and the situation may worsen. By 2050, population growth is expected to lead to a shortage of 250 million tons of protein. Filling this gap by increasing livestock production would exacerbate global warming and increase the land required for food production, resulting in sustained negative environmental impacts.

Why is yeast regarded as such a compelling solution to this issue?

The fascinating aspect of yeast lies in its small fungal nature, containing a vast world within it that is intricately intertwined with our daily lives. For instance, yeast is responsible for fermenting the bread we eat and the beverages we drink. It can be found in extracts used in cosmetics, seasonings in our daily cooking and as a beneficial probiotic aiding in gut health regulation. Functional components like glutathione and yeast polysaccharides can be extracted from yeast. Additionally, the wastewater from yeast fermentation serves as an environmentally friendly organic fertiliser. Yeast presents many captivating facets awaiting exploration.

Beyond its conventional roles in bread-making and brewing, what other potentials does yeast hold?

Beyond baking and brewing, Angel Yeast harnesses the full potential of yeast extracts to offer a range of differentiated advantages in food ingredient applications. Our products are tailored to enhance flavours, reduce salt, mask off-notes and cater to vegetarian preferences, meeting the evolving demands of the global food and beverage sectors. These versatile extracts find application in various products such as soups, instant noodles, snacks, meat and dairy alternatives, and functional foods, aligning with the rising consumer preference for natural, nutritious and delicious upgrades in their diets.

Angel Yeast plays a key role in human nutrition and health through offerings such as yeast protein, Boulardii yeast probiotics and yeast enriched with essential nutrients like zinc, selenium and chromium. With a focus on large-scale production, Angel Yeast has successfully incorporated yeast protein into flavourings, meat substitutes, dairy alternatives and functional nutrition products. The company has an annual production capacity of 1,000 tons of yeast protein, with plans to expand to 10,000 tons per year.

How does yeast protein contribute to addressing the global future protein crisis?

Angel Yeast’s development of yeast protein presents a sustainable, environmentally friendly and nutritionally rich solution to the global protein crisis. Unlike traditional crop-based protein sources, the microbial fermentation process for yeast protein is both sustainable and scalable, offering a reliable supply unaffected by weather conditions. With the capacity to produce approximately 30 tons of microbial protein per day in a large fermentation tank of 1,000 cubic meters, this equals the annual protein output of 100,000 to 300,000 acres of soybeans.

We select brewing yeast with optimal biomass and growth rates as the initial strain, employing high-throughput screening and directional breeding to achieve high-yield, stable protein strains. We utilise advanced compound enzyme hydrolysis technology for protein purification, enhancing its application characteristics for various food systems through enzymatic hydrolysis or physical modification.

What are the environmental benefits?

Yeast protein production significantly reduces water consumption, occupies less arable land and generates fewer carbon footprints. The wastewater generated from yeast protein production is used as organic fertiliser for yeast crops, creating a circular economy.

What special qualities does yeast protein possess as an organism?

Yeast protein is a natural, clean-label ingredient suitable for vegetarians, non-GMO, and allergen-free. It boasts abundant high-quality protein, dietary fibre, complete B vitamins, various minerals, and other beneficial nutrients. With low sugar, fat, calories and cholesterol-free characteristics, it offers a nutritious option for health-conscious consumers.

Could you describe the nutritional composition of yeast protein – especially compared to traditional proteins?

Whey protein – currently the gold standard – offers rapid digestion and a complete amino acid profile, particularly rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and leucine. However, its animal-derived nature may not suit all consumers seeking dairy-free or plant-based alternatives. Plant-based proteins, while available, often lack essential amino acids and may be challenging to digest fully. Additionally, their production from sources like wheat, soy and peas demands significant land use and is susceptible to weather fluctuations.

Enter yeast protein, derived from brewing yeast, boasting over 70% high-quality protein and a leucine content comparable to whey. Its ‘slow protein’ nature provides a sustained amino acid release, complemented by functional polysaccharides beneficial for gut health. Yeast protein production also offers sustainability advantages, requiring less land and utilising wastewater as organic fertiliser for yeast crops, thus fostering a circular economy. Therefore, yeast protein effectively addresses barriers for consumers purchasing animal protein supplements and also addresses sustainability issues.

What are the main applications of yeast protein?

As a high-quality protein source, yeast boasts wide-ranging applications across various sectors:

Common foods: yeast is utilised for nutritional fortification, fermentation in baked goods and enhancing stability and texture in products like bread, meat substitutes, dairy beverages and plant-based alternatives. In plant-based meat applications, yeast protein can mask ‘beany’ flavours, improve meaty taste, boost protein content and enhance texture to mimic real meat.

Functional foods: yeast protein is also prominent in protein powders, energy bars and sports nutrition products. It supports muscle recovery and reduces fatigue, making it valuable for consumers seeking active lifestyle solutions.

Could you elaborate on the findings from your clinical trials involving yeast protein?

Angel Yeast conducted a double-blind randomised controlled trial on 79 healthy adults 40 and above in Australia. The participants received 40g of yeast protein, whey protein or a placebo daily and participated in an eight-week resistance training programme targeting major muscle groups. In participants with insufficient dietary protein intake, yeast protein and whey protein significantly increased lean muscle mass and muscle strength compared to the placebo.

The maximum bench press strength increased by 5.78kg and 5.77kg in the yeast protein and whey protein groups, respectively, while the placebo group only showed an increase of 2.59kg. This study revealed that yeast protein is as effective as the gold standard whey protein in increasing muscle mass and strength in the elderly during exercise.

The exclusive article was published in FoodBev.

About Angel Yeast Extract-Savoury:

Angel YE (yeast extract) made from edible yeast, by degradation the protein and nucleic acid in the yeast cells into nutritional seasonings with the application of modern biotechnology, has the advantages of increasing the fresh flavor, reducing salt, balancing the odor, strong tolerance and food properties, which promotes the global healthy operation of salt reduction and "clean label ".

About Angel:
Angel Yeast Company is a high-tech listed company specializing in yeast and biotech. Product business covers Yeast and Baking, Yeast Extract-Savoury, Nutrition & Health and Biotechnology fields. It is one of the world's leading companies in the yeast industry. Angel has 12 holding subsidiaries and provides products and services for more than 150 countries and regions.

Press Contact:
Address: 168 Chengdong Avenue, Yichang, Hubei 443003, P. R.China

Tel: +86-717-6369520, 6369558

Fax: +86-717-6370680

Email: yefood@angelyeast.com

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