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Researchers want to make your plant burger juicy and delicious

Is your plant-based burger not as delicious as a traditional meat burger? In cooperation with international partners, researchers from Aarhus University want to make the green choice more attractive. Currently, they are trying to find out what a plant-based product should contain to increase its juiciness.

Photo: Colourbox

Would you like to follow a more plant-based diet but don’t think that the plant burger is quite as exciting as the traditional beef burger?

Researchers from Aarhus University are working to make the green choice a delicious choice.

Together with a number of European companies and research institutions, they are currently studying what a plant-based product should contain to create a burger that is as juicy as possible.

The project is funded by EIT Food, which is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

Hanne Christine Bertram, Professor at the Department of Food Science, is leading the project activities that takes place at Aarhus University:

- The juiciness of food is important to consumers. Next to flavour and texture, juiciness is the most important sensory attribute, so this needs to be prioritized to encourage us to replace traditional meat products with plant-based products.

Therefore, together with a number of other meat experts, she is transferring her vast knowledge of the juiciness of animal products to the plant-based area - and it is still pioneering work.

- We simply do not know enough about these products yet, she emphasizes.

New toolkit to help food companies

The juiciness of meat is defined as the impression of moisture and lubrication when meat is chewed in the mouth.

It comes from two sources: the juice, consisting of water and fat, which is released during chewing, and the amount of saliva it generates - and this makes juiciness a complex trait.

This project is developing an experimental toolbox, which will make it easier to understand the juiciness of plant protein-based meat alternatives - and this will enable us to link juiciness to specific ingredients, product structure and processing. 

- We have worked for many years to understand water compartmentalization in meat, how the water interacts with other components of the meat, and finally how it affects the juiciness, and now we are in the process of creating knowledge in the field of plant-based alternatives. In the project, we vary many factors to examine what these individually do to our product, says Hanne Christine Bertram.

The researchers have made plant-based meat with different fat sources in the form of coconut oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, and then they have varied the processesing of plant proteins, so the plant ingredients have different particle sizes - and thus structure and texture.

A wealth of laboratory and sensory studies

The project partners examine many different factors and products in a number of ways.

At Aarhus University, the water distribution of many different plant-based products is in focus:

- Using low-field NMR, we can investigate the interactions between the products' ingredients, the proteins, and the water - and thus see how they behave together. We examine both raw and cooked products, because it is an incredibly important property for the products to be able to hold on to the liquid during the heat treatment that takes place during preparation, says Hanne Christine Bertram.

Aarhus University also conducts important sensory evaluations with a trained sensory panel, and this result is compared with data from the various laboratory examinations.

- It is an iterative process where we learn from our research, produce new prototypes, which we investigate, and which lead to new knowledge and new prototypes and new research, so here in the second year of the project we are still a long way from the goal, concludes Hanne Christine Bertram.


Additional information
We strive to ensure that all our articles live up to the Danish universities' principles for good research communication (scroll down to find the English version on the website). Because of this the article will be supplemented with the following information:
Study type Experiments
Funding The project ”Improving juiciness of plant-based meat alternatives” is funded by EIT Food. Read more about EIT Food on this website.

Aarhus University contributes with characterization of water distribution and mobility, biophysics and sensory studies.

DSM (ingredient company) leads the project and contributes with texture analysis, sensory panel and data analysis.
You can visit the website of DSM here

Roquette (ingredient company) contributes to the extrusion of plant proteins and the production of the prototype burgers.
You can visit the website of Roquette here
Fraunhofer (research institution) contributes with extrusion of plant proteins, analysis and evaluation of ingredients and products, as well as production of prototypes.
You can visit the website of Fraunhofer here
University of Turin contributes with physical measurements and analysis of composition during preparation and cooked products.
You can visit the website of University of Turin here

Lund University contributes with meat expertise in general, measurements of texture, and advanced microscopic analysis of structure.
You can visit the website of Lund University here

External commenting The article has been read and approved the EIT Food communications department
Read more

You can read more about the EIT FOOD project ”Improving juiciness of plant-based meat alternatives” on the project website 

The project has used FOODHAY research infrastructure at Aarhus University.
Read more about FOODHAY here


Hanne Christine Bertram, Professor, Department of Food Science: hannec.bertram@food.au.dk or mobile: +45 6168 7389.

Other project participants from Aarhus University include Ulla Kidmose, Associate Professor, Konstantina Sfyra, Sensory Laboratory Leader and Banny Barbosa Correia, Post Doc.