The firm was speaking following the announcement of a partnership with Roquette, which seeks to combine the latter’s experience in the research and production of plant-based ingredients with DAIZ’s capabilities in meat-alternative applications.
“Apart from its expertise in pea-based proteins, Roquette has the market intelligence and a network of application centres around the world that DAIZ can tap into. Likewise, DAIZ will bring to the table our proprietary technology for seed germination. Together, we will elevate innovation efforts to produce high-quality meat alternatives,” Haruka Ideguchi from DAIZ’s public relations department told FoodNavigator-Asia.
By working with Roquette, DAIZ will be assured of a “reliable supply” of NUTRALYS pea protein that can be used in various food applications to meet nutritional and functional needs, as well as expedite its expansion outside of Japan.
“The collaboration will allow both companies to work closely together to develop the best plant-based ingredients, particularly for the European and North American markets,” said Ideguchi.
Besides meat alternatives, joint-development in other applications, such as fish and dairy alternatives, are also in the pipeline.
In the long term, the firms aim to build their manufacturing footprints through technology licensing to cater to rising global demand for innovative and sustainable plant-based ingredients.
A novel cultivation technique
The Ochiai Germination Method (OGM) was invented by Koji Ochiai, Chief Technology Officer of DAIZ. He discovered that once a seed’s DNA “wakes up” for germination, an exponential growth spurt and energy output are triggered to support sprouting.
In OGM, these metabolic reactions are further stimulated by exposing the germinated soybeans to precisely controlled amounts of environmental factors, including temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide and moisture, in a tank.
The “stressful” environment causes surges in enzyme activities, which promote rapid breakdown of starch and protein into sugars and amino acids.
“About 13 hours of enzyme activities would result in our soybeans having 10 times as much glutamic acid, twice as much arginine, 4.3 times as much isoflavones, and 3.5 times as much gamma-aminobutyric acid, compared to soybeans germinated in an ordinary environment.
“Our sprouted soybeans are rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals — compounds that are notoriously lacking in conventional soy-based meat alternatives. Also, they taste very similar to beef because of the ‘umami’ compounds in amino acids,” Ideguchi explained.
Furthermore, DAIZ uses non-GMO soybeans that are abundant in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid known for its multiple health benefits, including reducing bad cholesterol and prevention of cardiovascular disease.
“The high oleic content also eradicates the distinct smell of beans that American and European consumers generally dislike,” added Ideguchi.
The proprietary technology has led to the birth of MIRACLE MEAT, which DAIZ claims to be superior to other plant-based meat ingredients in terms of texture, aroma and flavour.
To reproduce the muscle fibres of meat, the OGM-germinated soybeans are kneaded under high pressure using a special extrusion machine. Its elasticity was tested and found to be about the same as that of boiled chicken.
The OGM is applicable not only to soybeans, but also a myriad of botanical sources. Significantly, the taste and texture can be adjusted according to different applications.
“Over the years, we have experimented with different varieties of soybean and with different environmental factors for germination. We believe the vast data from our research will boost our endeavours in developing delicious plant-based meat with realistic flavours mimicking those of pork, chicken, beef, and fish,” said Ideguchi.
Strong growth ambitions
To date, MIRACLE MEAT has been adopted by more than 50 companies, including restaurant chain Kirin City, frozen food manufacturer Nichirei Foods, and processed meat products manufacturer Itoham Foods.
The ingredient has been utilised to create a variety of foods, such as burgers, nuggets, gyoza dumplings and spring rolls.
In May 2021, DAIZ established an information hub in Boston, USA. Through this facility, the firm has teamed up with an artificial intelligence researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to leverage OGM data to delve deep into nutritional science and product development.
Since then, DAIZ has made moves to expand into overseas markets. It started exporting MIRACLE MEAT to Thailand in 2022, and is working with a local partner to localise products for the market.
In the coming months, the firm will focus on a stronger collaboration with Roquette to advance pea-based ingredients for meat alternatives and beyond.