• AZTI technology centre is leading OPTIPROT, a new Spanish alliance that seeks to promote the application of omics technologies in the food industry.
  • The aim is to increase knowledge about alternative protein sources and promote their combination with traditional ones to develop healthy and environmentally friendly ingredients and foods.
  • This Cervera Network of Excellence is funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, the CDTI and the European Union.

Increased awareness of the environmental impact of a conventional diet has intensified the search for more sustainable alternative protein sources. Cultured meat, insects, microbial protein, proteins recovered from effluents or by-products of the food industry are some of the new nutrients proposed in recent years.

However, consumer scepticism and the lack of knowledge about these alternatives make it necessary to make progress in scientific research in order to offer society and food companies conclusive data on their impact on both the sustainability of the sector and on people’s health.

In this context, AZTI, the project coordinator, together with the AINIA, ANFACO-CECOPESCA, Eurecat and CNTA technology centres, make up the Cervera OPTIPROT Network of Excellence, which seeks to provide industry with tools to find the best combination of protein sources and move towards a healthy and sustainable food system. This Network is funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, the CDTI and by the European Union through the NextGeneration/PRTR funds and is expected to be completed by June 2025. 

“We seek to promote the application of what are known as omic technologies to increase knowledge about traditional proteins of animal and vegetable origin, analyse existing alternatives and study their impact on health in a precise and effective way,” stresses Itziar Tueros, director of the network and AZTI researcher.

OPTIPROT proposes a new comprehensive approach that takes into account the different challenges involved in the food transition, including sustainable processes, the impact on health and consumer demands.

This strategic plan is based on the use of various protein sources, including new sources as well as other commonly used sources that, in combination, are incorporated into the generation of different foods whose health properties will be validated by means of different omics technologies.

“Aspects such as the nutritional quality of the ingredient, its bioavailability, accessibility and presence of anti-nutrients and allergenicity must be evaluated. In this sense, omics technologies applied to ingredients or foods or for the study of human metabolism offer different possibilities to carry out these studies,” adds Tueros.

Among the expected results of the actions to be carried out within the framework of OPTIPROT are the development of new foods that incorporate different types of protein, the attraction of new consumers from alternative sources, the reduction of the environmental impact of the industry, the creation of new economically viable business models and the increase in consumer confidence thanks to the generation of solid scientific knowledge.


Personalised nutrition approach

The efforts of the OPTIPROT network will also have an impact on the approach to personalised nutrition based on advanced techniques that will allow the generation of individualised dietary patterns.

“Knowing the consumer at the metabolic level will allow the creation of product ranges aimed at addressing health conditions shared by its customers and, if necessary, capturing market niches and attracting new consumers,” emphasises Itziar Tueros.

Thus, with the creation of OPTIPROT, the Spanish technology centre system will strengthen its scientific and technological capacity to contribute to the competitiveness of the food business sector in the field of healthy eating.

Each partner, with its essential role, contributes to generating high-level, applied and applicable scientific knowledge, and to being an international benchmark in the field of business transfer of the use of omics technologies, facilitating the use of new protein sources and their coexistence with other classic sources to ultimately increase their competitiveness in the development of healthy foods.

In short, OPTIPROT is the vehicle that will make it possible to take this qualitative and quantitative leap to perceive in a tangible way the advantages of the use of omics for business R+D.


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