BioTechnologies, a Russian sunflower processing firm, has developed a process to extract high-value plant protein from sunflower press cakes, a by-product of sunflower oil production.

Sunflower press cake contained 39% protein but, at the moment, most companies were simply burning it due to limited commercial applications, BioTechnologies commercial director Nikita Golikov told Food Navigator on 14 March.

Using a patented mechanical separation progress utilising ultrafiltration membranes – developed by Danish firm Alfa Laval – BioTechnologies was able to extract protein concentrate, fibre and polysaccharides from the sunflower cake.

“We can get up to 90% [protein concentration] but it was too expensive to produce. 80% is more economically effective,” said Golikov.

“Through the mechanical separation, we take away fibre, fat and saccharides from the protein and concentrate maximum vitamins, protein and energy into the final product.”

BioTechnologies’ first plant in the Altai Mountains in Siberia – where its sister company operated a non-GMO sunflower crush facility that supplied the press cake – had a production capacity of 6,000 tonnes/year.

The company was also constructing a second plant near the Russia-Belarus border that was scheduled to come online in 2019.

Marketed under the SunProtein brand, the firm exported its soluble protein powder to the EU, Canada and the USA for use in sport nutrition, functional food products, dietary nutrition, bars and bakery applications, Food Navigator said.

The powder had an 18-month shelf life and was available in either green or light cream colour, based on the kind of extraction process, although both colours had identical nutritional contents.

Golikov said the powder’s amino acid profile was better than that in soyabean or whey, and delivered a nutritionally complete plant-based protein that was non-allergenic and lactose free.