Colombian Engineers Create Nutritious Drink Based on Egg Protein

Research engineers at the University Del Valle in Cali, Colombia are developing prototypes of products based on egg protein. Ideally, this could help provide a nutritious drink for those without access to a reliable source of protein because of economic hardship or disasters.

Aida Rodríguez de Stouvenel, the director and research leader of the School of Food Engineering’s White Protein project says the research aims to improve the competitiveness of companies through innovative processes and prototype development based on egg, chicken and/or pork proteins.

This story is part of our new series of articles showing the work of women research leaders in the Faculty of Engineering in anticipation of Engineering Week 2021 (November 24-26) who's theme is "Women in engineering: research, entrepreneurship and innovation for the development of the region. " 

Rodríguez de Stouvenel, says the group works with a regional cluster initiative under the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce, which participates in this project together with Fenavi and 11 companies interested in strengthening innovation through new products.

Food Insecurity

Despite being blessed by large tracts of agricultural land; a wide array of soils; and many diverse, fertile growing areas, Colombia continues to struggle with food security due to a number of structural and social factors.

As of June 2020, the World Food Programme estimated that 10 million of Colombia’s population of just over 50 million people, could be at risk of food insecurity in Colombia, of which 3 million are projected to be severely food insecure.

Because of these factors, many Colombians still don’t get either the vitamins and other micronutrients from their diet or enough of the basic building blocks like proteins, carbohydrates or fats, despite living in a middle income country that is a member of the OECD.

Rodríguez de Stouvenel says there are also still many regions of Colombia where there isn't the refrigeration or sterilization infrastructure available to store eggs, meat or dairy.

This contributes to why protein deficiency, particularly among children, was one of the findings of Colombia’s 2015 National Survey of the Nutritional Situation (ENSIN 2015). In this sense, looking for dehydrated egg applications to meet different nutritional needs is a way to bring protein to people who need it.

The fact that the powder formulation can be stored and then easily reconstituted makes it a good fit for school food programs (both elementary school children and adolescents in secondary school), or to be part of food-aid kits for vulnerable communities and after disasters.

Rodríguez de Stouvenel explained that there are two lines of research within the Proteína Blanca project.

In the first, it seeks to explore applications of powdered egg as a source of high nutritional quality protein for the development of new food or beverage products.

In the second, prototypes of products with added value of other white proteins such as pork and chicken are developed, applying modified atmosphere packaging technology (MAP).
Foto: Aida Rodríguez de Stouvenel, directora del Proyecto Proteína Blanca e investigadora de la Escuela de Ingeniería de Alimentos. Crédito: Proyecto Proteína Blanca

New Products

Camilo Andrés Fajardo, operational manager of the White Protein project said the research group has carried out the necessary technical studies to produce drinks for children or for consumers with different needs in protein intake, which could even be a nutritional option in a disaster scenario.

"The vision of the research group is not only to focus on the contribution of eggs to the drink, but also to strengthen it with other ingredients such as minerals, fiber, vitamins, vegetable oils and other nutrients," said Fajardo, adding that there are many more products in the pipeline.

“Market trends show that the consumer wants to know the information on the quality and control in the production of their food and also the good treatment and care given to the animals," he said.

Foto: Investigadores del Proyecto Proteína Blanca. Crédito: Proyecto Proteína Blanca

The Advantages Of Valle del Cauca

According to Rodríguez de Stouvenel, Valle de Cauca, the department (state) that is home to the Universidad del Valle, already has a highly developed agricultural industry, especially with large-scale egg production.

"The main egg-producing regions of Colombia used to be near the border with Venezuela ... but many years ago they moved here to Valle de Cauca, because we are near the Port of Buenaventura, where the corn from the United States arrives," she said, adding that even though the egg industry is well established here, they often don't have the time or resources to conduct research and produce prototypes.

"This sector is highly developed in terms of production, but we are the ones who find out what type of products the Colombian consumer wants and thus create prototypes," Rodríguez de Stouvenel said.

In 2018, the financing of the White Protein project was approved through the Science, Technology and Innovation Fund of Colombia’s General Royalties System, has a total budget of $1.3 million USD ($5.2 billion Colombian Pesos) and commenced in 2019.

"We know that dehydrated egg products already exist, but generally they are just dehydrated yolks or dehydrated whites that have technical functionality in development of other products," she said.

The work developed by the research team was aimed at obtaining the correct proportions of yolk and egg-white to get a powder that guarantees high nutritional value and good functional performance. Functional characteristics (such as solubility, water absorption capacity, gelling among others) are used to develop prototypes of innovative products.

"We look at trends in Colombian consumers and around the world to see what other white protein-based prototypes we could develop into new value-added products," Rodríguez de Stouvenel said.

If you would like to contact the researcher or learn more about the project, contact the Office of Communications, Faculty of Engineering:
comunicaingenieria <arroba>

Banner Photo: White Protein Project test kitchen. Credit: White Protein Project.


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