Gold&Green Foods makes vegetarianism easily digestible
Finnish oats and beans combine to create an innovative and nutritious alternative to meat.
Broccoli. Brussels sprouts. Peas. Why is the colour green associated with so many foods that youngsters refuse to eat?
When Maija Itkonen was a child she had a different approach: the food on her plate was quite often very green indeed. In fact, she struggles to remember a time in her life when she has ever consumed meat.
“I don’t think I have been a vegetarian in the usual sense,” she recalls. “I just never had a reason to eat meat; I didn’t want to. I was 11 when I first heard there was a word for this, ‘vegetarian’.”
Whilst this label was once something of a novelty, these days more than 50 per cent of people in Western countries consider themselves at least to be flexitarian: only occasionally enjoying animal-based products.
It’s easy being green
The growing number of products in stores reflects this widespread enthusiasm for plant consumption. But, as shelves and freezers fill with new meat substitutes, all the while Itkonen has waited patiently for the arrival of an easy-to-prepare, flavoursome and nutritious option.
So, as the old adage goes: if you want something done properly – do it yourself. Drawing on her background in consumer electronics innovation, Itkonen connected with her friend, food scientist PhD Reetta Kivelä, who in turn brought a team of scientists and researchers onboard from the University of Helsinki.
The fruit of their collective labour can be playfully referred to as ‘pulled oats’.
“To put it really simply, you could say that we have invented a new soy,” Itkonen states. “It’s a perfect protein based on Nordic ingredients.”
Combining locally grown oats, fava beans and pea protein under the company name Gold&Green Foods, the pulled oats represent “the perfect nutritional composition.” Whilst large quantities of protein are difficult to digest, when combined with fibre the body is able to make short work of processing it.
With any new product on the market it helps to have a hint of familiarity for cautious consumers. Alongside a plain-flavoured option, pre-seasonings of kaffir lime, sesame and ginger, or tomato, smoked pepper and coriander are available.
The response has been very positive. In-store trials sold out in a few hours and production is being ramped up for widespread release in Finland as Q1 draws to a close. The remaining Nordic countries, along with the German and UK markets, are next in line.
The meat of the story
These pulled oats are merely the tip of the iceberg. Itkonen hints at a forthcoming range of energy bars, alongside plans for expanding their scope.
“Our idea is not that we would just be a food factory, but more that we have the platform and technology,” she states. “We will produce some items ourselves and at the same time make it possible for our partners to start creating their own products.”
Last year the World Health Organisation underlined the carcinogenic risk of consuming red meat and processed meat. Meanwhile, the environmental benefits of ‘going veg’ continue mounting up.
Itkonen points out that six kilos of plant protein are used to produce one kilogram of animal protein, and “the seven gigatonnes of CO2 produced by factory farming per year is higher than all transportation, even planes.”
Abstaining from meat also significantly reduces the amount of water consumed during food production.
“One meal saves you 2 000 litres of water – five bathtubs,” Itkonen enthuses. “Every meal matters.”
Text: James O’Sullivan
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