Innovative technology turns rapeseed to food grade level ingredient

There has never been a product like this in the global food market: BlackGrain from Yellow Fields™ is first of its kind. To create something so innovative, the team at Apetit decided to go against the grain and take a new perspective to how plant proteins and ingredients are produced.

Demand for plant-based ingredients and products is skyrocketing. So is the need for finding new sources of plant protein.

Having variety in the crops we use for plant protein is important. From a Finnish perspective, it is important to find crops that can be grown here to ensure food independence. Cultivating innovation and expertise in Finland is also key to gaining a sturdy foothold of the global food market.

It is easy to understand why our team is so enthusiastic about our new creation, which ticks all the boxes of innovation, sustainability, and local production.

It all started with the potential of Finnish rapeseed

Apetit saw that rapeseed had all the potential to challenge other plant proteins, such as soy. Until now, it has not been consumed to a significant degree in human diets except as rapeseed oil, known for its health benefits.

Cultivating rapeseed requires skill and experience — the kind Finnish farmers have, thanks to our long history with the plant. Sustainable plant protection secures healthy crop and good quality yield.

Harvesting is a critical point in rapeseed cultivation, too. The silicles of the plant need to mature and ripen enough to be ready for harvesting. If they are harvested too early, they will contain too much chlorophyll. Rapeseed cultivation practises require true expertise from the farmers.

To ensure always working with the best ingredient, Apetit has strict quality criteria in place. The company makes sure their farmers sow good quality seeds and see that their farmers use fertilisers and pesticides according to law.

Curious to learn more about Finnish rapeseed as a raw material? Click here.


A new perspective to plant proteins turns into a simple solution

When the rapeseed is brought from field to the factory, it goes through initial processing phases such as drying. After this, the magic starts to happen: the raw ingredient begins its journey to become a food-grade ingredient and finally a consumer product.

This is not a complicated technology solution, but the road to discovering it was long and winding. First, we tried to come up with a rapeseed concentrate and figure out how to eliminate fat residue to separate the proteins cost-efficiently.

Finally, our team decided to take a step back, and look at the problem from a new angle. Concentrates have long been the mainstream way to create plant proteins. But why go with the flow?

Everyone else was focused on creating a rapeseed-isolate to maximise the protein content, but why go that route when there is also fibre in rapeseed which is beneficial for human consumption? Why not make things simple, and only add the processing phases that are required to make rapeseed suitable for human diets?

That is exactly what our team did.

The most important innovation was to combine two processing phases: extraction and enzymatic treatment. This way, the team was able to preserve the proteins in the ingredient. They have now patented the innovative approach.

The test kitchen is a proving ground for the new ingredient

A key step in bringing a new ingredient to market is making sure it will be easy to use in food production. The test kitchen is where different basic recipes are created and tested to see what kinds of amounts of BlackGrain make for best consistency, colour, and flavour, for example.

Testing and developing recipes and the usability of the ingredient are an important part of applying for Novel Food approval, but also for commercialising the product. When developing an ingredient intended for use in mass production of food, there are many details to consider. The consistency needs to be just right: it should not stick together and needs to mix easily, for example. For this reason, Apetit prefers to work closely with customers developing their own products.

It is important for us to test and know how the ingredient behaves in different applications, so we can help our customers in how to best use it in their own recipes and products. Usability is important, and our customers are the final judges of what is optimal for them.

Consumer health is taken seriously all the way from field to dinner table

Since BlackGrain is a completely new ingredient, the team at Apetit has done extensive tests and research to ensure consumer safety. Two key factors are maintaining the nutritional balance and taking into consideration the allergenicity of protein.

Rapeseed protein has allergenic potential, since the related protein in mustard is an allergen. As a result, people allergic to mustard can have a reaction to rapeseed. This was already declared to Novel Food authorized Rapeseed protein. As a result, we instruct our customers to include this information in their packaging information.

The nutritional content of BlackGrain has also been under scrutiny. BlackGrain contains all necessary amino acids, which means no additional plant proteins are needed to meet nutritional requirements. It also contains a bit more fibre than other similar sources — which is only a good thing!

Since rapeseed fibre has not previously been used in human diets, the team studied its safety and tolerability in a human intervention study which was designed to produce statistically significant results. We wanted to find out more about how the fibre in rapeseed affects test-subjects who ate the protein bars used in the test.

Thanks to the team’s attention to detail, innovative BlackGrain is now ready for use in food products and headed for dinner tables all around the world.