Summer may well have packed its bags and left town for another year, but the taste for ice cream hasn’t left our palates. In the freezer section of many supermarkets there is a special treat on offer for ice cream enthusiasts: lupin ice cream. Fraunhofer researchers in Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are the developers of the production process behind the frozen desserts and are supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Recently the developers were awarded the Federal President's "Future" Prize.
The protein for the vegan ice cream stems from the seeds of the blue sweet lupin Lupinus angustifolius. The robust plants with the white and blue petals flourish when grown in Germany and have even been called the “soya of the North”. The blue sweet lupin also naturally improves soil quality with its nitrogen-binding roots. Until recently, however, the high content of bitter substances and the bean-like taste in its protein-rich seeds, had prevented its take-up in the food industry.
Sophisticated technology removes unpleasant taste
But things have changed: the cultivation of the blue sweet lupin, which has not been genetically modified, contains less bitter substances than other types of lupins. Furthermore, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) in Freising and the spin-off company Prolupin GmbH from Grimmen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have developed a sophisticated technology that carefully removes the unpleasant taste. The lupin proteins extracted from this process taste and smell normal and can easily be made into food products. During the development of its procedure, the Fraunhofer researchers were supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The regional grower’s initiative “PlantsProFood” sponsored by the BMBF explored the market opportunities for the innovative lupin protein products.
Milk and vegetarian sausages
The lupin protein is a particularly useful plant alternative to milk protein, and can be used as the basis for a wide variety of food, such as meat and dairy-free substitutes. There is so much potential to be found in the lupin technology that Germany’s president Joachim Gauck awarded the scientists with the German Future Prize 2014. Marketed since 2011, the ice cream and other lupin protein products have become so popular that a few months ago, the company Prolupin started to market the products under the new label – with LUVE standing for lupin and vegan. “The lupin ice cream is made with a completely new recipe and available in the classic flavours – vanilla, chocolate and strawberry,” says Marc Zillmann, responsible for the product development at Prolupin. Fans of the vegan ice cream can find it in the freezer sections at large supermarket chains and at other retailers across Germany.
Lactose-free and healthy
The vegan and lactose-free ice cream manufacturers are in fashion. Furthermore, research shows that the ice cream is healthy too: apparently the lupin proteins help to sink cholesterol levels. And because the sweet lupin is grown on arable land in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern und in Brandenburg, it is a regional product. So as an alternative to imported soya, the sweet lupin also saves on CO2. Lupin ice cream is not only an innovative but also a sustainable treat.
Author: Philipp Graf