Fibre structure perfect replacement for meat

Interview EVMI May 2018

From savoury fillings for bakery markets to animal-friendly sources of protein with the characteristic fibre structure of real meat. Ruitenberg Ingredients focuses on niches with added value in the international market for ingredients and semi-finished products. One new addition is Rudin ProVega: thanks to its fibre structure, this meat substitute perfectly replaces chicken, pulled pork and fibrous meat.

In a continuous process, the sausage – casing included – leaves the extrusion machine. This casing has been a cornerstone of the Ruitenberg Ingredients range for years already. It was also an early showcase for the innovative character of the company. “We produce Rudin VegaCasing from alginate derived from seaweed”, explains Marketing & Sales Director Axel Schijns. “We process this, using a proprietary production process, into a gel that is suitable for producing sausages with casing in a co-extrusion process – an integrated process step.”

“We produce Rudin VegaCasing from alginate derived from seaweed”

Ruitenberg Ingredients is one of the leading producers in this field worldwide. But the company has more tricks up its sleeve. Schijns: “Such as Rudin CleanSmoke, our liquid smoke. You can of course smoke foodstuffs with wood chippings. But the disadvantage is that the process is difficult to control and it releases many hazardous substances. As an alternative, we produce liquid smoke. This involves condensing smoke into a fluid that contains the flavour and other properties of smoke.”

Because Ruitenberg filters out the hazardous substances, the liquid can be added as an ingredient in meat products and sauces, either by atomising, dipping or drenching, for instance. Schijns: “This enables the producer to positively influence the flavour of the final product.” One of the characteristics of Ruitenberg’s way of working is that the company also controls the liquid smoke for functional properties like colour, taste and shelf-life.

With its savoury products for the bakery market, Ruitenberg operates on the market for semi-finished products too. Schijns: “Like our liquid smoke, our ready-made cheese fillings for cheese croissants are also a great example of a functionally controlled product. The bake stability, mouth feel and structure determine not only flavour but also how we make this product.” This ready-made semi-finished product is also available in powdered ingredient form. Customers of this variant can put together their own filling using fresh ingredients.

Tech centres with test lines

Ruitenberg considers innovation the company’s key ingredient (see the box about Ruitenberg on this page). This philosophy put the company on the trail of the Dutch Ingredients For Food Innovators (IFFI) association. CEO Ward van der Kaaij: “I knew IFFI non-executive director Joep van Wessem from a previous position. I frequently witnessed activities on the cutting edge of ingredients and innovation. And that’s not something you see very often. These activities also fit our profile, which is why we became a member. We love the idea of joining together within the ingredients sector, exchanging ideas and jointly stepping up our game.”

Recently Ruitenberg Ingredients introduced itself to IFFI members by welcoming them on the premises and giving them a tour. “We showed them how we distinguish ourselves: our tech centres”, says Van der Kaaij. “These are test lines fully equipped with the necessary machines and instruments. They allow us to demonstrate clearly for ourselves and for our clients what our ingredients mean to their end product. Clients may also have us test their new products with our ingredients, while their regular production keeps running uninterrupted.” There is a tech centre for processing meat, for bakery products and for liquorice extracts. Van der Kaaij: “The latter of these involves developing extracts for our sister company, Ruitenberg BasIQs, in Amersfoort. A novelty we developed recently is a liquorice sweet based on pectin instead of gelatine, starch or gum arabic. Many people said it wasn’t possible, but our pectin sweets really are going on sale in stores soon.”

Animal-friendly and sustainable sources of protein

The visit by IFFI members was perfectly timed, as they were able to witness a new development that Ruitenberg Ingredients launched recently. As with the fillings, it is a semi-finished product. Schijns: “Meat consumption in Western Europe is falling. Both consumers and meat-processing companies alike are looking for animal-friendly and sustainable sources of protein. Unfortunately these often miss the fibre structure of real meat.” Van der Kaaij: “A product that does possess that structure is precisely the kind of distinct product with added value that we are always aiming for.”

Together with its partners, Ruitenberg has actually developed such a product: Rudin ProVega. “This involved us setting up the entire production process ourselves that results in this distinctive structure”, states Van der Kaaij. “On the newly developed line, we can even vary the fibre structure. This means we can use different animal and vegetable protein sources, such as milk, egg, peas or lupine for juicy meat replacements, to imitate chicken, pulled pork or fibrous meat.”

Van der Kaaij recently treated a number of clients to a lunch of ‘chicken nuggets’. “It was only afterwards that we asked them to comment on what they thought it was. The answer was: chicken. Err, no actually, they were nuggets based on our Rudin ProVega.”

It is an exciting time for the company: over the last few weeks, Ruitenberg Ingredients has been scaling up production and whetting the market’s appetite for Rudin ProVega.

“Consumers and meat-processing companies in Western Europe are looking for animal-friendly and sustainable sources of protein.”

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