Cubiq Foods said it can convert liquid oils such as sunflower or olive oil into solid or semi-solid fats, according to Food Navigator. As a result of its process, saturated fat levels in plant-based burgers are reduced and juiciness is improved without hydrogenation, the Barcelona-based startup said.
Most plant-based burgers use coconut oil for making their products on an industrial scale, but some fat and moisture content is lost in the cooking process, the publication noted. Cubiq's "smart fat" process adds water and clean-label ingredients and puts the fat through a mechanical process, which the company said is in the process of being patented.
Cubiq has other well-known pending projects. It is producing two types of omega-3 fatty acids — DHA and EPA — from fat tissue cultured from poultry stem cells. The company got an investment of 12 million euros ($13.56 million) in January. Cubiq CEO and Co-Founder Andrés Montefeltro told Food Navigator these ingredients taste better and are cheaper to produce than long-chain omega-3 fatty acids sourced from fish oil, krill and microalgae.
Making healthier liquid oils available as solid fats — using only water and other clean-label additives — could help food manufacturers that now use solid products high in saturated fat such as coconut oil. Reducing fat content would increase products' appeal to consumers, and retaining more juiciness and flavor are two more potential benefits.
Montefeltro told Food Navigator the company's initial focus for this type of product are meat and plant-based meat substitutes, but additional uses could include vegan cheese and ice cream. Cubiq's latest "smart fat" product works best with fresh and refrigerated items, but he noted the company is working on this challenge now.
While Montefeltro said similar technology has been experimented with in academic settings for 15 years, nobody has yet commercialized it for production on an industrial scale. That could change since Cubiq is now making enough product to provide samples and hopes to establish a pilot plant capable of making two tons daily.
Cubiq is not the only company looking to limit fat calories with new ingredient processes. Epogee Foods launched a fat replacer earlier this year made from non-GMO rapeseed oil that it claims can reduce fat calories by up to 92% without sacrificing taste, texture or appearance in baked goods, confectionery, frozen dairy and desserts. And Cargill released a hybrid canola oil last year with reduced saturated fat, allowing manufacturers to cut the molecule in their products by about 35%.
These new products could provide a boost for CPG food makers looking to streamline their ingredient lists and tout lower calories and better flavor and nutrition on labels. Consumers are liable to seek out such products as they increasingly opt for better-for-you items as part of an overall healthier diet.