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Alternative fats: How Gavan is buttering up the baking sector, and slashing saturated fat by 80%

September 25, 2023

Israeli food-tech startup, Gavan, has created a plant-based fat called ‘FaTRIX’ with the precise texture of butter, the company claims. Founder, Itai Cohen, says it is using a protein-extraction method to create the fat, which has been trialed in a brioche that was indistinguishable from buttery ones.

“In tests, people could not tell the difference,” he reports. “We’re more responsible for creating the texture of butter fat, which is hard to do in a brioche as it opens in a certain way and has the rolling effect in your mouth from all the fat. We bring a neutral fat to the table so it’s up to our customers to get the taste right, but it’s relatively easy to do by using extracts.”

Using the plant-based FaTRIX also reduces the percentage of saturated fat by around 80%, Cohen points out. “I guess that’s our USP. When you look at our goals, alongside reducing sugar levels, it’s all about saturated fat, and regulations are increasingly supportive of that. We’ve cut it by so much that a brioche can almost be healthy! And the same applies to croissants, pancakes, and other baked items. And we’re reducing calories by 30-50%!”

Gavan is Cohen’s fourth start-up in 15 years, each one in a different industry. He started the company in 2018, with co-founders, Allan Hazan, and world-famous Israeli chef, Uri Jeremias. “Changing sectors keeps me on my toes and learning new things,” he admits. “Or perhaps I just think the neighbor’s grass is greener. What drove me to choose the food sector was the understanding that people talk a lot about sustainability, but they never do sustainable stuff.”

As an example, Cohen cites the extraction of pea proteins. Around four fifths of each plant is thrown away, he says, despite protestations of sustainability. That led him to investigate more environmental methods. “What we’ve invented is a new method of extraction that uses the entire plant. It extracts the proteins and harnesses their ‘natural forces’. We create a natural physical skeleton that holds the water and vegetable oil together. It’s actually an emulsion, or an oleogel.”

The proteins are bound together to create a strong gel that is neutral in taste and can create a range of textures. “We can mimic the strength of beef fat on the one hand, or we can create butter, or liquid cream on the other,” Cohen adds. “We are involved in developing fats for baked goods and even creating cream cheese for alternative dairy. And we’re also involved in alternative meats, ice cream and even chocolate. Nothing is commercially available yet, but there are a lot of prototypes.”

A commercial advantage for Gavan is the celebrity status of chef and co-founder, Jeremias, who effectively acts as ‘Chief Culinary Officer’. “Nothing goes out of our labs if he doesn’t approve it,” Cohen reveals. “He has a lot to do with the taste and textures. He got involved as he was also looking at the same technology to find new ingredients for his seafood restaurant, Uri Buri, in Acre. The restaurant has become the center of our business development, where he has a lot of samples. He’s a very special character. He’s instantly recognizable as he looks like Santa Claus!”

No regulatory approval is required as the ingredients are all readily available and he expect products containing FaTRIX to be on the market at the end of 2024. “Our goal is not to target vegans but the general population who want to eat plant-based food,” Cohen concludes. “Ultimately, we want them to choose these options because they taste better as well as being healthier and more environmental. We see this ingredient as a key in almost any industry. We have a lot of customers, especially in Europe and some in the USA. Our aim is to become a global company.”

The above extract is just one of 10 interviews about alternative fats taken from the October/November 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International magazine. To subscribe, free of charge, to receive all future issues direct to your inbox, please subscribe here

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