Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing a new and promising
method of producing healthy and tasty plant-based food through plant
cell culture (PCC) technology rather than field cultivation. The
development work was elevated to a whole new level by a study on the
nutritional properties of PCCs grown from cloudberry, lingonberry and
stoneberry. Their nutritional value was proven to be much higher than
anticipated, in addition to having a nice sensory profile.
recent years, VTT has developed plant cell culture technologies with
the aim of creating a completely new and groundbreaking method of
producing vegetable foodstuffs and ingredients. As shown by the results
of the study published in an article in the food science and technology
journal Food Research International in February 2018, the production method developed at VTT is looking more promising than ever.
Population growth and food demands
is not only a completely new opportunity for the food industry but to
society as a whole. There is not enough arable land to meet the growing
global population's food demands; new solutions are desperately needed.
Cell cultures have serious potential for meeting this need," says Emilia Nordlund, Leader of VTT's Food Solutions Team.
culture production of meat has been a popular topic in public
discussion. In the future, however, PCCs can be used to produce food
that has higher nutritional value in a considerably faster and easier
way and at lower costs.
Nutritional and sensory properties
objective of VTT's study was to examine the nutritional and sensory
properties of dried and fresh cells grown from cloudberry, lingonberry
and stoneberry by using PCC technology.
The PCC samples had a
pleasant, fresh and mild flavour, which resembled that of corresponding
fresh fruits. The berry-like flavour was more intense in the dried
samples, which were also melting appealingly in mouth. The visual
appearance of cell cultures also resembled that of the corresponding
The plant cells were proven to be nutritionally
valuable – in most respects even more so than fruits. The PCC samples
had high protein content of 14-19%, and in vitro analysis showed good
protein digestibility. The contents of essential amino acids important
to muscle, bone and tissue health were higher than those reported for
soy, which is considered an excellent source of amino acids. The dietary
fibre of the samples varied between 21 and 37%, which is clearly more
than in breakfast cereals, for example. Energy content was also higher
than anticipated. The PCC samples were also found to be rich sources of
unsaturated fatty acids. A previous study of VTT has shown that cell
cultures have high contents of polyphenols that are known for their
health-promoting effects (Ref. Planta, 2017).
produced with plant cell culture technology should be considered as
completely new food material, which is why their characteristics should
not necessarily be compared with corresponding fresh fruits. Their
excellent nutritional properties are a sign of great future potential of
plant cell cultures in creating new types of superfoods. The variations
produced by using different plants offer limitless possibilities," says
Heiko Rischer, Leader of VTT's Plant Biotechnology Research Team.
the food industry, plant cells and their dried versions offer
opportunities to create new types of healthy food products and
ingredients, such as smoothies, caviar-like compotes and snack foods.
The key thing to remember in product development and from the logistics
point of view is that all materials are always at their best when they
are fresh. However, only the sky seems to be the limit when exploring
new product innovations with the cell materials.
For example, in
the "Food My Way" project, VTT's scientists are currently coming up with
ideas for future food vending machines that enable consumers to buy
healthy food products tailored to their personal tastes. An appliance
designed for use in a café or restaurant could include a bioreactor for
growing a fresh cell compote to be added to a food product.
addition to further research on the subject with new cell lines and food
design, the market entry of PCCs requires regulatory approval as a
VTT is actively developing the concept further in the
frame of the strategic Food 4.0 vision and invites parties interested
in developing new plant materials, the related production processes and
equipment to collaborate.
Nordlund, Martina Lille, Pia Silventoinen, Heli Nygren, Tuulikki
Seppänen-Laakso, Atte Mikkelson, Anna-Marja Aura, Raija-Liisa Heiniö,
Liisa Nohynek, Riitta Puupponen-Pimiä, Heiko Rischer. Plant cells as
food – A concept taking shape. Food Research International 107 (2018),
pp. 297-305. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996918301388
Suvanto, Liisa Nohynek, Tuulikki Seppänen-Laakso, Heiko Rischer,
Juha-Pekka Salminen, Riitta Puupponen-Pimiä. Variability in the
production of tannins and other polyphenols in cell cultures of 12
Nordic plant species. Planta, 246 (2017), pp 227-241. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00425-017-2686-8
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