Students make fermented protein drink from ancient peas

There are plenty of protein drinks on the shelves of supermarkets these days. However, a vegan, fermented version made from locally grown field peas is definitely unique. That’s exactly what a group of food technology students came up with for an assignment.

– Publicerad den 25 May 2020

Fay Stensson and Martin Jönsson in the labratory (Photo: Kristina Lindgärde)

“One aim with this drink was to increase the absorption of iron in vegans who can have a tendency towards iron deficiency. The fermentation process removes the substances that otherwise would block the absorption”, says Fay Stensson, one of the students.
“There are currently very few vegan protein drinks”, she adds.

Together with eight other students from seven different countries, she has developed the drink as a part of project course where they were required to come up with a food product.

The best aspect, they all agree, is that the whole pea is used, so there is no waste. This also makes the drink more nutritious.

“A challenge with using the whole pea is that insoluble proteins affect the end product. If we had more time, we would work on solving that issue too”, says Martin Jönsson.

Another trendy aspect, in addition to it being a protein drink, is that it is fermented. One example of this is kombucha, a drink originally from China, that nowadays can be found around the world. Fermented drinks have a characteristic, tangy taste.

“We are the only ones to have tried making a fermented protein drink, to our knowledge,” says Martin Jönsson.

However, the good bacteria disappeared when the student heated the end product before packaging, something that needs to be done for consumer safety.

“If we didn’t heat the drink, we would have a probiotic product. This would mean having more control mechanisms in place, something that wasn’t possible within our course,” says Martin Jönsson.

The choice of the field pea, a pea that was a staple from the Stone Age and onwards, but then forgotten in favour of green and yellow peas in the mid-1800s, was because it is both nutritious and has a neutral flavor.

Field peas are also possible to grow in the harsh Scandinavian climate, as opposed to soy beans that are often used as a protein source for vegans. This choice means no rainforest destruction or long-distance transports.

Legumes are known to increase gas production. In this case, the fibres that the gut bacteria otherwise would have used to produce gas are used up in the fermentation process.

Whether or not we will find the pea drink in stores eventually is unclear, according to the students. But they hope to continue exploring the exciting possibilities that fermented products present.

The students are: Anne Bauer, Martin Jönsson, Fay Stensson, Phuong Dung Kieu, Serap Özkan, Ruohong Qu, Manav Pillai, Padmashree Toragaravalli Rajeevalochana and Oscar de Kuijer.