An important quality that formulators must consider is the safety and shelf life of meat alternative products. While some of the traditional food safety and quality ingredients used in real meat have application in alternatives, there are special considerations.

“Fat systems are a key component of great-tasting, plant-based meat alternatives, yet the oxidation of fat and oil components in these products is a common challenge for brands,” said Courtney Schwartz, marketing director at Kemin, Des Moines, Iowa. “It can be very difficult to deliver the texture and flavor consumers desire if your product isn’t properly protected from oxidation at the onset of production.”

There’s a range of plant-derived ingredients based on acerola, rosemary and green tea extracts that function as alternatives to commonly used synthetic antioxidants. They assist with retarding the oxidation of fats and oils in foods, thereby preventing the development of stale, old, rancid tastes and smells. They may even help with color management and food safety.

Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee, Wis., now offers a range of food safety cultures that can be applied alone or in combination to undergo fermentation in plant-based meats. They assist with keeping yeast, mold and pathogens such as Listeria at bay.

“Plant-based meat alternatives tend to have high levels of sodium, due to the addition of buffered vinegars or different salts used for food preservation, such as sodium acetate or sodium lactate,” said Zdenek Cech, business development manager for plant-based meat alternatives at Chr. Hansen. “With our new cultures, producers may be able to reduce the sodium content in their products, relying on the power of fermentation technology to support shelf stability so foods remain safe and fresh, naturally.”

MycoTechnology Inc., Aurora, Colo., removes some of the food safety and quality hurdles by using fermentation and moisture management through dehydration. Drying assists with keeping chemical-sounding – artificial and natural – preservative-type ingredients out of formulations.

MycoTechnology’s Goodside Foods brand does this with its new meatless shelf-stable crumbles. The product is made with three ingredients: pea and rice protein that gets fermented by shiitake mushroom roots, or mycelia. This natural fermentation process makes the plant protein in these meatless crumbles tastier and easier to digest, according to Lisa Wetstone, director – innovation and growth strategy. The crumbles are convenient for chefs to keep on hand, and they may be crafted into protein-rich meals by simply adding water.

Maija Itkonen, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Gold&Green, a Finnish company that produces protein granules and protein flakes, said “We know the demand for clean label and sustainably sourced food is only going to increase. We’ve been able to merge our innovative technology with clean, naturally nutritious ingredients.”

Also made from only three ingredients – oat bran, pea and fava bean protein – the shelf-stable proteins may be hydrated and blended with other ingredients to form products such as burgers, patties and balls.