By JIM SALTER
The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 27, 2006; 9:27 PM
ST. LOUIS -- What's a health-conscious burger lover to do? The real thing tends to have too many calories and too much fat, but meatless burgers seem to lack the flavor and consistency of real beef.
St. Louis-based Solae LLC has come up with a solution, a patent-pending invention called SoleCina that involves both the process and the ingredients to produce either a "hybrid" meat _ part soy, part real meat _ or a completely meatless food that tastes like chicken, beef, pork or turkey.
The company said both versions taste _ and feel to the mouth _ much like real meat, but are much healthier. For example, a hybrid burger dubbed the "Better Burger" by Solae has two-third the calories and half the fat and saturated fat as a burger of comparable size.
SoleCina has been in the works for a decade. Details were introduced this week at a gathering of food scientists and technologists in Orlando, Fla.
Solae is a $1 billion food innovation company that specializes in soy protein _ the company has more than a 50 percent share of the world's isolated soy protein food ingredient market. It makes soy-based ingredients found in hundreds of grocery store products, including food bars, beverages, snacks and meatless alternatives.
Solae is not saying which manufacturers will use the technology, but products using SoleCina are expected to be on the market by the end of the year.
"This is a game-changing innovation with the potential to greatly enhance how our customers satisfy changing consumer needs," Solae President and Chief Executive Officer Tony Arnold said.
SoleCina converts a blend of vegetable and meat protein into a meat substitute or hybrid with the consistency of cooked, whole-muscle meat, said Jonathan McIntyre, Solae's vice president of research and development.
"You would be hard-pressed to take a look at this product and have any idea it's anything other than what you're used to in a cutlet, a flank steak, that type of product," McIntyre said. "You get the chewiness and mouth-feel quality."
You also get a healthier meal. McIntyre said soy is the only plant-based protein with a protein quality equal to that of meat, milk and eggs. It is also rich in iron and vitamin B, and is cholesterol free.
Marcia Mogelonsky, senior research analyst for the market research firm Mintel International in Chicago, said Solae's product could be a boost for the meat substitute industry that has stagnated in recent years.
"There are a lot of people who try to cut back on meat," Mogelonsky said. "Just think _ if half your meat is soy, you can have twice as many portions.
"But the biggest problem with soy has always been taste and the mouth feel. If they've really overcome that, they've come a long way."
On the Net:
Solae LLC: http://www.solae.com
Mintel International: http://www.mintel.com .