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Industrial symbiosis for valorising whey and banana wastes and by-products for the production of novel foods

Food resources are under ever-increasing pressure from a growing population and climate change, necessitating efficient food production and minimising food waste. Global food waste, food that is discarded or lost uneaten, amounts to between one-third and one-half of all food produced.

The EU-funded Horizon 2020 SYBAWHEY project addressed this challenge by developing a transnational partnership between Europe and Africa that promotes an area-wide network for generating innovation in food waste management and valorisation. It aims to exchange waste and by-products, as well as knowledge and transferable skills between different sectors of the food industry based in Africa and Europe.

Project partners focused on high volumes of underused by-products and wastes from banana production in Uganda and the environmentally toxic cheese whey produced by Cyprus dairies. According to project coordinator Dr Kostas Gkatzionis, “It is more effective to maximise the value of food and by-products than reducing the cost of its management.”

A multidisciplinary solution to food waste

Compared to other regions, whey from Cypriot dairies has high lactose content and therefore great potential for product-driven biorefining. Moreover, banana flavour is one of the most preferred flavours in dairy products.

Meanwhile, Uganda is one of the largest producers of fruits and the banana and plantains industry and the partners benefited from exchange of skills in food processing and product development. "We focused on intersectoral and intrasectoral synergies for exploring the complementarity of waste resources and raw materials for the valorisation of whey,” explains Dr Gkatzionis.

Researchers used a multidisciplinary approach to carry out studies on economic and technical feasibility, microbial diversity, microencapsulation, market analysis, and bioprocessing of waste. They also investigated ways to convert whey and banana waste into useful products with high input for the same or different industrial plants. In addition, the consortium assessed innovative technologies for extracting the aroma from banana pulp and peel for use in dairy products.

Scientists also characterised whey and banana pulp and peel and developed bioprocesses for utilising pulp and peel in health-promoting fermented whey-based novel foods. Dr Mantzouridou, the principal investigator at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki states: “The addition of banana pulp in dairy products was investigated for nutritional and flavour purposes as well as functionality, since it is believed to increase the viability of probiotic microorganisms in dairy products.”

A new banana-flavoured product

Researchers studied the feasibility of lactic acid bacteria collected from waste streams and tested them in a simple freeze-drying process utilising media with sweet whey. In addition, they examined lactic acid bacteria immobilisation in banana peels.

A yogurt-like product rich in proteins was manufactured from a whey-based medium enriched with the banana peel. “Τhe impact of the incorporation of banana products on sensory perception was assessed in order to verify if its use could comply with the growing demand for more natural food products with pleasant sensory characteristics,” reveals Dr Mantzouridou.

Project partners assessed the sustainability of banana flour in terms of energy and resource use. They also determined the sustainability of the proposed valorisation processes by evaluating their economic, environmental and social impact.

A questionnaire-based market analysis of the consumers’ response to the innovative fermented whey-based products was therefore conducted, identifying the extent to which European consumers would welcome fermented whey-based yogurt. “From a practical point of view, understanding the profiles of adoption of products is important for identifying links of the findings to the society, policy makers, food-producing companies and related economic sectors,” Dr Gkatzionis concludes.

Reference source: Industrial symbiosis for valorising whey and banana wastes and by-products for the production of novel foods

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