Ensuring the sustainability of the protein extracting methods through life cycle assessment

The Mediterranean diet is considered to be a healthy and highly nutritional solution, that unfortunately has lost attractiveness for youngsters in competition with the fast, easy to get and already prepared food. In contrast, there is an increasing trend among millennials and young population, that favours foods that are healthy, ethically, naturally sourced and less processed. This very paradox is addressed through the “Functionalized Tomato Products” (FunTomP) project, that aims to reformulate traditional Mediterranean tomato products considering the current consumer trend of ‘functional foods’, using leaf proteins (by-products of sugar beet processing) and olive powder, and employing novel and eco-friendly processing technologies with low impact on nutrients.

Along the project, LOMARTOV is a key partner in assessing and guiding the innovative product development process from a sustainability perspective, reviewing the state-of-the-art of current techniques for protein extraction and quantifying final environmental impacts through life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. In these terms, the last deliverable submitted in February 2022 and presented by LOMARTOV in the 1st FunTomP Board Meeting that took place last 30/06 & 01/07 in Turkey, included results to evaluate the most orientate, efficient, and sustainable protein extraction methods from the sugar beet leaves (SBL). This work supports and guides the engineering tasks and upscaling challenges, devoted to the extraction and characterization of SBL proteins, and the developing and testing of different protein extraction processes.​

The main problem identified in the production chain is related to the high energy consumption of both thermal and mechanical processes. The methodology employed by LOMARTOV delivered results to evaluate the different protein extraction techniques while bringing recommendations for improving the sustainability of the extraction process. To this aim, a literature review on the SBL protein extraction processes was carried out to obtain main environmental indicators, while identifying the most sustainable and feasible production routes through a comparison of conventional methods and techniques included in FunTomP for protein extraction from sugar beet leaves, and highlighting non-eco-friendly subprocesses or steps to provide contingency measures during technology scaling up.

The results obtained from the research revealed in first place that studies evaluating the environmental footprint of extracting proteins processes from beet leaves are scarce. Thus, LCA methodology described by ISO 14040 and ISO 14044, is employed as a robust instrument to explore the experimental stages of the project. The comparison of the different protein extraction techniques led to positive recommendations for reducing the environmental impact of FunTomP methodologies, which were addressed towards an optimization of operating conditions, complementary to mechanical pressing and positioning intensification schemes as a possible solution for residual waste heat recovery.

LOMARTOV´s work will continue with the full sustainability evaluation of the FunTomP processes, including environmental, costing and social assessment reports, supporting an optimal environmental profile and preserve affordability for a competitive and sustainable deployment of the results. Thus, the project is fully aligned with the European Commissions’ Farm to Fork Strategy, at the heart of the European Green Deal and adds a remarkable step in the valorization of agricultural waste for food industry.

FunTomP project is managed by researchers and industry experts from 8 countries (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon and Croatia) with the same goal of supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, led by the Middle East Technical University (METU).

The FunTomP project is financed under the Partnership on Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), that targets solutions for a more sustainable management of water and agri-food system in the Mediterranean basin.

Further information about the project here.




This project has received funding from PRIMA programme supported by the European Union under Grant Agreement No. 2032.

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