LoginEKO is in full swing developing novel plant-based foods that taste better, are reasonably priced, convenient, and represent a much healthier nutritional choice.
Dr. Luka Zevnik is about to finish his working day in LoginEKO’s food laboratory. He is testing the creamy structure of our ‘Meal in a Bottle’ just one more time before going home, and seems satisfied with the results. The “sandy” taste is gone for good, and that’s great news! One of the biggest challenges to produce a natural, organic, and protein-rich meal has been definitely overcome. LoginEKO’s goal to produce natural, healthy, and less processed food is within reach. But this was not an easy path to travel.
We would love to eat healthy, but we don’t have time.
People love to socialize around meals with family, friends, and colleagues, but a lot of our meals are just functional to keep us going. An empty stomach and a lack of time, determination, or alternatives often lead us to make compromises, and we feel bad about them. Physically and emotionally.
We know that diets lacking nutritional balance are bad for us and the world around us. They are responsible for one of the greatest health burdens and directly related to premature mortality. Research shows that between 20 – 25% of all adult deaths have been associated with unbalanced diets – and the percentage is growing. Also, even if we weren’t so strict, healthier and lighter diets enable us to feel good in our bodies, which is linked not only to our health, but also happiness, progress, and empowerment. Most people know that the dark side of progress and development related to our diets and the food system is that they are major drivers of environmental pollution and resource demand. They also contribute to the crossing of key planetary boundaries which we will not be able to reverse.
The second half of the 20th century gave rise to the first generation of convenience foods which went hand in hand with rapid industrialization. The result was extremely processed, artificial, and unhealthy food – nowadays known as “junk food.” In the 21st century, we still need “fast food” because of our demanding lifestyles, but we’ve developed a new sensibility for healthier and lighter diets that enable us to work more effectively and achieve our life’s goals. Consumers also push for initiatives such as “clean labeling”, which encourage food companies to create products with easy-to-understand labels, listing natural ingredients, and that include minimal artificial additives. With this in mind, LoginEKO is already in full swing developing novel plant-based foods that taste better, are reasonably priced, convenient, and represent a much healthier nutritional choice. Real foods of the future.
Our food development starts at our farm
Our food development doesn’t start in the laboratory, but in the field. LoginEKO has over 3,500 hectares of organically certified farmland in Serbia. Imagine a place where a team of agronomists, agroecologists, and field workers produce only 100% plant-based products. This is a very important start, as you might imagine. “We want our products to be as “clean label” as possible. With this, we mean really natural, not using any natural aromas.” If you’re wondering what’s the story about aromas, Luka, a Senior Food Development Expert at LoginEKO, explains: “If you don’t put a real strawberry in your product, you use a natural aroma to replace it. It’s better than an artificial one, but it’s still just an aroma.” However, using an actual strawberry opens a whole series of challenges.
“Our starting point was to use natural raw materials as much as possible,” Luka explains, “which leads to one of the biggest challenges – how to ensure a certain shelf life, or durability of the product.” The most typical way of achieving this is by using temperature. One process is to pasteurize or even sterilize it. “But in these ways you destroy the natural taste of the fresh material. If you kill something (or don’t use it at all), you need to solve the taste with aromas, but this is not a natural way.” Luka explains why LoginEKO had to find another solution to make a product with natural ingredients that preserves the taste and quality of natural fresh materials, and has a shelf life of at least 1 month at the same time.
Luka and his team achieved this with ‘HPP’ – High Pressure Processing technology: “We expose the product to high pressure, not high temperature, and achieve minimal loss of sensory properties, which means taste, and minimal loss of nutrients.” This is currently the most advanced technology for maintaining the natural properties of food, and is primarily used for fruit juices and smoothies that are naturally more persistent due to their acidity. However, LoginEKO has a complex product, which contains nuts, cereals, and proteins, so the research team had to optimize the recipe to achieve durability and safety, as well as taste. They have succeeded, and made what they believe is the first product with high protein content made with the HPP technology. A big discovery.
How do strawberries and peas get along?
We at LoginEKO wanted to make a “meal in a bottle” with high protein content from a vegetable source. Most of the industry uses whey protein, but we looked for non-animal sources and decided on the pea since we can grow it on our farm in Serbia. Well, you can imagine it didn’t go very smoothly with peas at the beginning.
“Peas have an off taste, an earthy aftertaste. They also have a kind of gritty, sand texture, a bit like chalk or an unripe persimmon which leaves a strange feeling on your teeth. You don’t want that in your meal, do you?” says Luka emphatically. His team had to find a way to process this protein to get rid of the off taste and achieve a creamy and smooth texture. They were really happy to succeed, especially since the challenge didn’t end there. These proteins do not behave well in an acidic environment, which you get when using real fruit. Do you remember how Luka and his team were determined to use real strawberries and not replace them with aromas? Well, they managed to produce a stable and safe meal in a bottle to follow LoginEKO’s values, and simply couldn’t compromise on the quality of materials or the way of processing them.
From farm to fork
To be able to give you the best meal possible, we are striving to achieve vertical integration, which means we are trying to control all stages of food production: from farm to fork. Our food development will be based on fresh materials produced on our farm so that we can transfer all the benefits of LoginEKO’s research into the end product and to you. Although you won’t need a fork for our meal in a bottle, we would like to make this meal as convenient for you as possible, without making any compromises in taste or health benefits for you and our planet.
Luka and his team are working hard to create natural food for the future – novel foods that don’t compromise on health, taste, convenience, price, or your love of nature. The good news is that these will be available already this year on selected markets. We are doing our best to revolutionize what we eat in the near future, to make the shift to a sustainable and healthy diet. The shift that we know we have to do and isn’t jeopardized by our lack of time or alternatives, and that our good intentions can easily translate into actions.