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BBSRC DTP - Designer plant burgers – use of targeted biochemistry and chemistry to generate flavour (taste and aroma) during extrusion of plant protein

This is an exciting opportunity to work at the interface of engineering and flavour science to develop and improve the taste of plant-based meat products, providing tasty and sustainable alternatives for flexitarian and vegetarian consumers. The interdisciplinary supervisory team comprises academics from their respective centres of expertise (Wolfson Centre for Sustainable Materials Development and Processing at Brunel and The Flavour Centre at the University of Reading) and is supported by Unilever.

Although meat consumption has decreased by 17% over the last decade, the recent National Food Strategy recommends a further drop in 30% by 2032 to meet health, climate and environmental commitments. In order to achieve these targets, the development of sustainable nutritious and tasty non-meat-based alternatives to proteins is essential, and a market for meat mimics driven mostly by flexitarian consumers has evolved. However, achieving a credible and sustainable meaty flavour that persists throughout the whole eating experience is still a challenge for industries producing affordable plant-based protein alternatives for every-day use. The amino acid profile of pea protein isolate (~70% protein) meets the nutritional requirements as recommended by the WHO/FAO/UNU, providing a sustainable and nutritionally balanced alternative to meat protein.

This 4-year PhD studentship involves development of a sustainable, nutritious tasty burger with fresh long-lasting meaty aroma using extrusion technology. A number of different enzymes and different extrusion process conditions will be investigated to generate the required taste, aroma and texture. Chemical, nutritional and sensorial analyses will be carried out using laboratories at both Universities.

Training opportunities: You will have an opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary research area between BUL and UoR that involves flavour and food science and extrusion processing. Both Universities will provide training, technical and academic support. You will develop transferable skills with engaging with Unilever and spend at least three months in their industrial sites during the final year. You will also receive industry – relevant training and skills, and benefit from the co-curricular training provided as part of the DTP.

Student profile: The successful candidate will possess minimum 2:1 Honours degree in Food Science/ Engineering/Technology, Chemical or Process Engineering or equivalent qualification(s). Degree in MPhil, MEng, MSc or relevant industrial experience would be an advantage. Students should be keen to engage with the interdisciplinary and applied nature of the project, but expertise in all aspects is not required/expected as full training will be given.



Funding particulars: For up to date information on funding eligibility, studentship rates and part time registration, please visit the Current PhD Opportunities - FoodBioSystems (reading.ac.uk)

How to apply



Meet the Supervisor(s)

George Fern - George Fern is a chemist by background who has worked in engineering since 2006.  He has a broad skills set in developing and delivering collaborative research and development projects with industry, from inorganic and organic materials chemistry to their integration into polymeric materials and electronic devices.  His research focus is on opto-electronic materials and devices for applications ranging from horticulture to displays and lighting.   He has a keen interest in materials characterisation and is the Academic Director of the Experimental Techniques Centre and Director of the Wolfson Centre for Sustainable Materials Processing and Characterisation. He is a Chartered Chemist and Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society.

Valentina Stojceska - PhD in Food Engineering – School of Biosystems Engineering, University College Dublin Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) –Manchester Metropolitan University BSc in Biotechnology and Food Process Engineering - Faculty of Technology, St. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje