The Rise of Plant-Based Innovators: Pioneering companies with TOP-inside technology revolutionising the meat substitute industry in the past 15 years.

Over 15 years ago, our team at TOP b.v. (Wageningen) embarked on a journey to develop innovative meat substitutes and plant-based products. Our focus was specifically directed towards creating textures using extruders and other technologies. We firmly believed that the key to successful adoption of plant-based alternatives lays in replicating the texture and flavour profiles of meat. Through years of dedicated work and scientific research, we established three remarkable companies that have made significant contributions to the field. In this article, I want to highlight these three companies and shed light on their strategies and technological innovations.

Ojah B.V. – Delivering the Best “Kipstukjes” with High Moisture Extrusion (HME):
In 2007, TOP initiated research on using extruders to structure plant-based proteins, leading to the development of a patented production process that revolutionised the plant-based meat industry. Building upon this success, Ojah was founded in 2009 as the first company to commercialise the technology known as High Moisture Extrusion (HME).

Under the continued leadership of Frank Giezen, Ojah has become a global powerhouse in the plant-based meat sector. Based in Ochten, the Netherlands, the company has gained international recognition for its flagship product, the “Kipstukjes.” These vegetarian chicken chunks have garnered a loyal following due to their remarkable meat-like texture and exceptional flavour profile.

Ojah’s commitment to innovation and quality has propelled the company to the forefront of the plant-based industry. In recognition of its achievements, Ojah was acquired by Kerry Ingredients, a global leader in taste and nutrition solutions. This strategic partnership has provided Ojah with additional resources and expertise to further expand its product offerings and market reach.

Bflike B.V. – Creating Juicy Meat Substitutes such as Ground Meat, Hamburgers, and Sausages:
While HME technology has been instrumental in creating meat-like textures, the market for plant-based meat substitutes extends beyond specific products like chicken chunks. At TOP, we recognised the importance of developing juicy alternatives to traditional meat products such as ground meat, hamburgers, and sausages. This realisation led to extensive research aimed at replicating vegan fat and creating plant-based alternatives that offer both excellent texture and juiciness.

The fruits of this research were incorporated into the establishment of Bflike, a joint venture between BOX and the renowned American ingredient company Cargill. Bflike combines the expertise of both partners to produce a range of juicy meat substitutes that meet consumers’ expectations for taste, texture, and overall sensory experience. Leveraging the patented results from TOP, Bflike has successfully developed groundbreaking products that have captured the attention of consumers and the food industry alike.

The collaboration with Cargill has proven to be a strategic advantage, allowing Bflike to tap into Cargill’s extensive global network, distribution channels, and market insights. With a strong focus on product innovation and culinary expertise, Bflike continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in the plant-based meat market, offering consumers a diverse selection of high-quality, juicy meat substitutes.

Dutch Structuring Technologies B.V. – Pioneering the Future of HME with CHS:
While HME has been a game-changer in creating plant-based textures, its scalability has been a challenge. HME systems typically operate at a relatively low throughput, limiting their potential for large-scale production. To address this limitation, TOP partnered with Sobatech to develop an innovative technology called Continuous High Shear (CHS).

CHS represents the next generation of extrusion processes, providing a significant leap forward in terms of scalability and texture development. Unlike traditional HME systems, CHS can achieve production rates of up to 2000 kg per hour, making it suitable for large-scale manufacturing. This breakthrough technology not only enables the production of high-quality textured proteins but also allows for precise control over fibre-level textures.

Dutch Structuring Technologies (DST), a company born out of the collaboration between TOP and Sobatech, specialises in harnessing the potential of CHS. By leveraging DST’s expertise, food producers can tailor the length and strength of the fibres in their plant-based products to closely match the texture and mouthfeel of the animal meat they seek to replicate.

In conclusion, these three pioneering companies — Ojah, Bflike, and Dutch Structuring Technologies — have played instrumental roles in revolutionising the meat substitute industry. Through their dedication to innovation, commitment to quality, and groundbreaking technologies, they continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the plant-based sector. As consumer demand for sustainable and ethical food options grows, these companies are leading the change in providing plant-based alternatives that rival the taste and texture of traditional meat products.

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