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Can Scotland's food producers capitalise on the rising trend for lupin?

Bowl of lupin beans

Can Scotland's food producers capitalise on the rising trend for lupin?

Lupin beans have long been a popular snack in Mediterranean countries and in South America, and they’re also used as an ingredient in many food products. Is Scotland ready to embrace the latest plant-based protein alternative that has potential to grow domestically?

Lupin or lupini beans are members of the legume family, closely related to chickpeas, lentils, peas, and soybeans. The beans have long been a popular snack in Mediterranean countries and in South America, where they're often soaked in salt or roasted and snacked on like peanuts.

In recent years, they've become very popular in Australia and Europe due to their health and sustainability credentials. Lupin beans are also a highly-valuable source for animal feed, and are only just starting to make waves in the human food supply chain.

Why use lupin as an ingredient?

Health properties:

  • Good source of protein and fibre (both 40% per 100g)
  • Low in starch (1-4%) compared to other beans
  • Naturally gluten free
  • Can help to stimulate satiety, making us feel fuller
  • Thought to have a positive effect on cholesterol, blood pressure and bowel function

Good for the planet:

  • Locally grown throughout several countries in Europe (as an alternative to soybean)
  • Can help to reduce CO2-emissions (doesn’t need to be transported across the world, and doesn’t contribute to the deforestation of rain forests)
  • The cultivation of lupin needs less pesticides compared to soy because of its thick and protective seed coat
  • Lupins can improve soil properties because of its nitrogen-binding capacity (it effectively functions as a ‘green’ fertiliser)

Functionalities of lupin:

  • Emulsifying properties
  • Can help with food colouring and water binding
  • Can help to improve food products’ structure, mouth feel, crispiness, and stickiness

Product innovations

Due to these properties, lupin beans are used in a range of food products, including snacks, crisps, flakes, plant-based dairy and meat products.

Revolupin flakes from Australia

Australia produces over 85% of the world's lupin, though until recently much of it was used for stock feed. But producers such as Revolupin Flakes, are helping to make them more suitable for the modern, western diet.

Revolupin flakes are made of dehulled, split and milled whole beans. There's no heating in the process, and nothing is added. The resulting flakes can be eaten in several ways, for example: added into porridge and smoothies, blended into flour for breads and cakes, or even used as a couscous alternative in salads or dips.

FRANK Food Products from the Netherlands

FRANK Food Products is a leading lupin processing company based in Europe and has helped to build the global lupin market. Since 2017, it's been part of the Inveja Group, aiming to introduce lupin to the rest of Europe.

MADE WITH LUVE from Germany

A German company called Prolupin has developed a plant-based dairy product range, MADE WITH LUVE, that’s made from lupin protein-isolate. Its patented protein extraction process was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV.

Lupins naturally have a slightly astringent, bitter, nutty taste. In order to use lupin protein in a variety of foods, you need a neutral sensory profile. Special processing methods have enabled the company to overcome this challenge.

Product texture and mouth-feel can also be controlled via the manufacturing process. The use of lupine protein in food products has enabled specific product properties such as creamy, spreadable, and cuttable to be realised in foods.

MADE WITH LUVE’s series of plant-based products, which are also free from GMO, include milks, yogurts, cream cheese and ice creams - and even pasta.

Growth opportunities

Currently, there is no established market for lupins in Scotland, though the protein quality and high oil content indicates that lupin could potentially be more valuable than peas or beans. Lupins are difficult to grow in Scotland’s cool and wet climate, but growers increasingly try them in mixtures with cereals, like Lupicalgae, a combination of lupins and triticale.

There’s an increasing interest in home-produced protein, especially for animal feed. But the growing popularity of plant-based protein, sourced for the human diet, opens up new markets and opportunities in Scotland.

Innovation support for Scottish food and drink companies

Want to understand more about lupin production in Scotland? Our innovation connectors are here to help. Make Innovation Happen is a single source of innovation support for businesses involved in the Scottish food and drink supply chain.

Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise work in partnership across academia, the public sector and the industry to deliver a comprehensive innovation support service.

Make Innovation Happen can help your business by providing:

  • Access to 'connectors', who can offer support, advice and mentoring, as well as direction to appropriate support
  • Ideas and insights on how to innovate through articles and events
  • Funding through the Collaborative Innovation Fund
  • Help to access other innovation services provided by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Interface and others

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