Cargill gears up for late 2022 launch of corn protein isolates, talks plant-based meat formulation


Cargill – which has partnered with PURIS to expand production capacity for pea protein​​​ and has a range of soy-based ingredients – has been researching corn protein for a while, Melissa Machen, protein senior technical services specialist told FoodNavigator-USA.

The food industry is pretty adept at producing oils, starches and sweeteners from corn, but as the protein content in field corn is fairly low (around 8-9%), it has not traditionally been grown as a protein crop, despite its allergen-friendly credentials and appealing amino acid profile, she said. The protein- and fiber-rich parts of corn left after the milling process historically have gone into animal feed.

‘The challenge has been understanding the way to extract the protein and still make it functional’

While some companies produce zein​​​​, a water-insoluble protein called prolamin that’s extracted from corn and can form edible films used in confectionery and other products, Cargill is producing something different, she said.​

“The challenge has been understanding the way to extract the protein and still make it functional so it can work in different food applications.”

Asked about formulations, ​Cargill believes its corn protein – which has good gelling and water binding properties – has potential in myriad applications from snacks, pasta and baked goods to dairy and meat alternatives, where it can aid with water and fat retention as well as protein fortification, said Machen.

We’re not only thinking about North American launches, but across the globe. Corn protein is a great protein for meat alternatives because it’s got a great neutral flavor profile and a really good performance. It’s particularly high in leucine, so it blends well with pea protein​ [for a balanced amino acid profile, as pea is higher in lysine].”



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