Pulled oat to become every kitchen's plant protein

Reetta Kivelä, Doctor of Food Sciences, has developed a protein derived from Northern beans and oats, intended to challenge minced meat, the mainstay of Finnish everyday cooking.

Oat and legumes are a good match as ingredients, as they are well suited to be alternated in crop rotation. In addition, a combination of these two ingredients results in a good composition of amino acids and a hearty structure.

“We use the most nutritionally dense part of oat, the bran. The remaining endosperm is ground into flour and used in baking, or other purposes. We process the legumes to collect their protein, and then sell the remaining starch for other purposes. This means nothing is wasted,” says Reetta Kivelä from Gold&Green Foods Ltd.

“We intend for this completely new product, pulled oat, to take its place alongside fish, meat, eggs, soy and wheat as a meal ingredient,” Kivelä explains.

Small batches of pulled oat have already been put on sale. The aim is for the product to fully hit the shelves of neighbourhood grocery stores in the autumn.

No need for protein to go through a cow

According to Kivelä, the food industry and food itself are rife with traditions and emotions. She, however, believes that these things should be regarded with fresh eyes.

“Everyone knows that mass production of meat is unsustainable,” she says.

Kivelä believes there is room for new products on the market, particularly if they are aimed at the busy consumer.

“Everyday life can be so hectic that it seems impossible to make better choices. We want to help the consumer do better!”

Oat is one of the most ecological raw materials on earth. While exact figures on the climate impact of the product are yet unavailable, Kivelä presents a simple thought experiment to help us understand the fundamentals.

“Production animals get their protein from these same sources. Of course it is more ecological to use the nutrition at the source than to have it routed through an animal.”

Recognition for a researcher-entrepreneur

Kivelä wrote her doctoral dissertation on the properties of beta-glucan in oats at the University of Helsinki in 2011.  The new product is based on the experiences Kivelä acquired during her dissertation process.

“My dissertation is the basis for everything. It taught me to think about the problem and its solution. While the finished product did not directly spring from my dissertation, it was vastly useful during development. Pulled oat is the result of cooperation between many disciplines and people,” Kivelä points out.

Reetta Kivelä was voted the young researcher-entrepreneur of 2015. The award involves a €5,000 cash prize, granted to a researcher who has generated a business based on research. The competition is organised by the Special Fund for Academic Entrepreneurship under the KAUTE Foundation together with the Startup Foundation.