Getting It Right With Plant-Based Alternatives

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Getting It Right With Plant-Based Alternatives


Replacing animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins is not always easy. But there are ways to create plant-based alternatives that appeal to everyone, not just vegetarians. By Natcha Wongthongdee, Team Technical Lead, Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, Asia Pacific Ashland Specialty Ingredients.


Plant-Based Alternatives: Creating Meat-Like Texture And A Pleasant Appearance

Plant-based foods are increasingly popular as not only meat alternatives, but also as a replacement for seafood. Motivations for seeking plant-based alternatives include:

  • Seeking a diet with greater variety;
  • Concerns for animal welfare;
  • Avoidance of allergens;
  • Health and wellness


A variety of consumer needs has led to more innovation in end applications, ingredients, and textures. Formulators face significant challenges when working with plant-based alternatives. Achieving good texture and appeal are two of the most important things.


Challenges Of Working With Plant-Based Proteins

There are challenges associated with using plant-based proteins. Firstly, they have different binding properties, texture characteristics and functionality as compared to animal proteins.


Secondly, they behave differently at a given pH and temperature. This means plant-based proteins and animal proteins cannot be substituted 1:1. As plant-based alternatives are required to mimic the muscle structure and texture of meat, they are usually made from the following:

  • Legumes and pulses (soy, peas, lentils, chickpeas);
  • Pseudocereals (quinoa, buckwheat);
  • Grains (wheat gluten)
  • Rice’
  • Sorghum;
  • Tubers (potatoes)
  • Seeds and nuts.*


Lastly, in addition to the various sources of plant proteins, there are also different types of texturised vegetable proteins with very different structures. They can be crumbly, chunky, fibrous, and flakey, which can be used to broaden product range. For example, both jackfruit as well as a mycroprotein from microorganisims and mushrooms, can be used to mimic the texture of animal-based meat and seafood.

Getting It Right With Plant-Based Alternatives

The different types of texturised vegetable proteins.


Solution for plant-based proteins

Ashland provides texturising expertise and solutions to create a broad scope of available plant-based alternatives that are attractive to everyone, not just vegetarians. Replacing animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins is not always easy, but it can be achieved with the use of hydrocolloids. The right hydrocolloid helps you deliver a product with the desired eating quality and texture. Because of their versatility, hydrocolloids can help deliver sensory and functional benefits. Formulators use hydrocolloids to replicate the bite of a meat-based product, improve moisture retention, improve binding or help replace a binder with known allergies, like eggs. Some plant-based applications require low temperature gelling properties. That is why Ashland developed Benecel™ MX modified cellulose (methylcellulose).


Benecel™ MX modified cellulose is specially formulated for meat and seafood alternatives, and vegetable-based applications. It can:

  • Provide a firm bite for products meant to emulatemeat products;
  • Act as a binderto replace eggs;
  • Help toretain moisture to provide an enjoyable eating experience.


Modified cellulose can be combined with other gelling agents or other hydrocolloids to create customised textures or to modify the chewiness, elasticity, and/or silkiness of the product. Modified cellulose can also be used to make emulsions with good texture in combination with a broad range of animal fats and vegetable oils. The different fat types provide varying levels firmness.


Features And Benefits Of Benecel™ MX Modified Cellulose:

Low gelling temperature;

Improves binding;

Improves moisture retention;

Helps provide the desired eating quality and texture;

Helps deliver sensory and functional benefits;

Replicates the “bite” of a meat-based product.


What Is Exciting About This Technology?

We are working on solutions that go beyond beef alternatives to substitute chicken, pork and seafood. Below is an example of plant-based chicken that was prepared using soy protein, wheat protein and Benecel™ MX modified cellulose. The plant-based chicken has a similar appearance and texture compared to the animal-based product. Moreover, texture analysis results showed a favourable comparison of firmness, chewiness, and springiness to the animal-based product.

Getting It Right With Plant-Based Alternatives

Plant-based chicken vs animal-based chicken.



Fibre — A Tasty Solution For Fat And Sugar Reduction
Digital Transformation In The F&B Industry
A Taste For Plant-based Cheese
Packaging And Processing Trends
What You Should Know About Smart Packaging
How Active And Intelligent Packaging Addresses Food Supply Shortages
Biotic Beverages
Plant-Based Frozen Desserts
Plant-Based Diet: Texture Counts For Plant-Based Success
Intralogistics: Automation & Digitalisation Solutions
Sustainable Solutions To Food Waste & Food Safety Issues