Optimised salmon protein production

Biomega uses SternMaid’s fluid bed processor to produce salmon protein powder under gentle drying conditions, optimising and standardising the properties of the these valuable marine proteins

As a producer of quality salmon proteins and oils, research and development plays a central role in Biomega AS’s activities.

The Norwegian company is an expert in the continuous enzymatic hydrolysis and refinement of salmon proteins, but has outsourced the drying of its Salmigo peptides for further processing. In the search for a suitable partner, Biomega contacted SternMaid. Thanks to a sophisticated fluid bed processor, the contract manufacturer is in an excellent position to optimise functional ingredients.

From fresh salmon to stable protein powder

Biomega produces Salmigo from fresh salmon by gentle hydrolysis in the absence of solvents. As the process takes place in the neutral pH range and at low temperatures, the result is a stable mixture of short-chain peptides. The hydrolysed protein isolate is then purified by a process developed and patented by Biomega itself. After subsequent drying of the peptide solution, Salmigo has a shelf-life of about 2 years. Fluid bed technology is an excellent means of drying powders, granulates and extrudates and considerably prolongs the storage stability of the treated products.

Partners on a basis of equality

The decisive factors for co-operation were SternMaid’s specialist knowledge and its years of experience in powder handling. With its comprehensive range of services, high quality standards and modern plant and equipment, the German company is on a par with Biomega AS as a partner. Sales Manager, Carsten Hjelde, noted: ‘The team at SternMaid gave us competent help and advice from the very first contact and enabled us to implement this project quickly. We were also impressed that the company is as focused on quality as we are, and we found them to be very flexible.’

SternMaid first did trials in its laboratory fluid bed dryer in close co-operation with Biomega to test Salmigo’s processing characteristics. This made it possible to quickly and easily make any necessary adjustments to the process parameters at pilot-scale. The sample batches produced formed the basis of the industrial-scale process and guaranteed reproducibility. The powdered salmon proteins were then produced using the multifunctional fluid bed processor, which can operate in both batch or continuous mode.

Gentle drying with fluid bed technology

In fluid bed technology, heated and filtered air is drawn into the product container of the unit through a fluidised bed. A distribution plate ensures that the current of air has defined flow characteristics. In this way, the starting materials are mixed intensively, creating a fluid bed. The particles can then be dried to the required final moisture content.

Fluid bed drying has a number of advantages compared with conventional spray drying, as Jörg Vernau, a Process Engineer at SternMaid, explains: ‘This special drying process doesn’t just remove the moisture from a product. The aim is to produce dry goods with precisely defined structures and parameters.’

The products that emerge from a fluid bed dryer dissolve and disperse much better in liquids than the fine powders derived from spray drying, which makes them easier to handle. In the fluid bed, the purified peptide solution is transformed into a powder. ‘The result is a free-flowing granulate that does not separate, is virtually dust-free, dissolves extremely well in liquids and is very easy to dose,’ Jörg continues.

As the drying process can be carefully controlled, the product is only subjected to moderate heat levels (30–50 °C). No thermal damage occurs and, in this way, the functional and nutritional properties of the salmon peptides are preserved. Some of these properties are derived from the salmon’s good amino acid profile, which makes it a valuable source of protein and a very good alternative to milk protein (especially for people with lactose intolerance).

The amino acids can help to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels and speed up fat metabolism. Moreover, the hydrolysed protein isolate is in the form of peptides, which are more easily absorbed than single amino acids or intact proteins, and are more readily digestible.

Outlook: new opportunities for manufacturers of food supplements

After drying, the salmon proteins are mixed with other ingredients and can be added to special products for athletes such as protein powder or energy bars. Manufacturers can advertise products containing Salmigo with a protein content as high as 90%. Salmon proteins can also be used in soups and sauces to create a characteristic ‘seafood flavour.’ Further applications include animal and hypoallergenic feeds.

As Carsten Hjelde explains: ‘The feed industry has been using fish proteins for many years. But food supplements with salmon peptides are an entirely new product group on the market. For these applications, of course, we have to meet a few challenges in respect of flavour. We have already been able to produce powders with a very neutral taste in our factory and are confident that these will soon be ready to launch onto the market. Our task now is to push ahead with research and product development. And where powder handling is concerned, we have SternMaid as a flexible outsourcing partner.’

The same approach to quality

Moreover, it is important for Biomega to work with companies that share their sophisticated approach to hygiene. With the aid of a centrally organised and supervised quality control system, SternMaid ensures that all goods leaving its factory are in excellent condition. The end-products are subjected to microbiological, physical and sensory testing. SternMaid is certified according to ISO 9001:2008 and the internationally recognised food safety standard FSSC 22000.

In compliance with the current stringent food regulations, its Wittenburg plant has state-of-the-art equipment including a pharmaceutical-type counter-current container blending line on which even the most sensitive products can be processed according to the highest possible hygiene standards and with optimum process safety and traceability. In this way, the company ensures compliance with the continually increasing requirements in respect of cross-contamination and allergen management.

All-round service

Looking to the future, Biomega sees further potention collaborations in the fields of packaging, warehousing, delivery and blending. Says Carsten: ‘We try to think and act realistically in all our processes. For example, we produce our Salmigo peptides from Norwegian salmon. So the processing plant must not be too far away from the fishing grounds. SternMaid, by contrast, is close to the market, so it’s only logical to outsource all the other services, besides drying, to one and the same place.’

SternMaid offers the entire service chain from one source. Customers can either make use of the whole package or select individual service modules, depending on their requirements.

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