LikeMeat is the acronym for “High quality meat-like products – from niche markets to widely accepted meat alternatives”. It is a 2 year R+D project that is being funded by the EC’s Seventh Framework Programme under the specific programme “Capacities – Research for SMEs“.
LikeMeat aims to enable small and medium sized enterprises to develop meat analogues with excellent texture, juiciness, appearance and aroma having high consumer acceptance in order to participate in this growing market sector. This aim will be achieved by exploring in detail raw material characteristics with respect to process behaviour and texture and flavour. Further microbiota in raw, intermediate and end products will be carefully monitored to improve the shelf-life and ensure the safety of the products. An extensive assessment of consumer preferences, acceptance and needs will allow target-orientated food developments and the promise of well-accepted products for end users.
Several environmental and health-promoting issues substantiate the shift from an animal protein – in particular meat – to a vegetable protein based diet. Although meat analogues have attracted increasing industry and consumer attention, the market for these products is still very small. This is probably due to the fact that commercial available meat analogues – in particular their sensory qualities – do often not meet consumer preferences implicating a renunciative and critical position against those products. To obtain a larger market share, the development of meat analogues with superior textural and sensorial quality and concomitantly wide consumer acceptance is a prerequisite.
The project LikeMeat aims at the development of meat analogues with excellent, well-accepted texture, juiciness, appearance and aroma based on plant proteins and combinations with appropriate hydrocolloids. Therefore, detailed knowledge about protein aggregation, protein interactions with other components in the recipe and the impact of processing conditions on product quality is required.
Another focus will be on odour-active compounds and strategies to adapt the process and the formulation for simulating meat aroma. To improve the shelf-life and ensure the safety of the products, the microbiota of the used raw materials and intermediate products and their degradation kinetics during the production of meat analogues will be analysed.
The development of refined and microbiological safe products shall enable the participating partners to launch first products at short notice. An extensive assessment of consumer preferences and needs will reveal the sensorial drawbacks of currently available meat substitutes and will facilitate the research activities for the development of innovative products with high consumer acceptance but also prosperous marketing strategies.