Fava bean protein provides vegan dairy alternatives

21 June 2023
To respond to the protein transition and the growing demand for plant-based protein, more and more plant-based proteins are becoming available. A recent example is the protein isolate from fava beans, which is a good alternative to dairy protein.

“Early 2022 Cosun extracted 100 tons of protein isolate, consisting of 85% protein, from fava beans (Vicia Faba L.). These beans are also known as faba beans or broad beans. This was the commercial start of a promising development in plant-based proteins that contributes to the desired protein transition,” said Dr. Marcel van der Vaart, Business Development Manager at Cosun Protein.

Dr. Marcel van der Vaart

Business Development Manager Plant Proteins at Cosun Protein

Protein transition

Making food chains more sustainable requires a protein transition. That is why the then Minister Carola Schouten presented the National Protein Strategy to the House of Representatives of the Netherlands in 2020. This transition focuses on five key points: cultivation, innovation, insects, residual streams and consumption of plant-based food. Together, these key points encompass the entire protein value chain from production to consumption. Van der Vaart: “Personal health, animal welfare and climate are the driving forces in the protein transition and I strongly believe that this transition is here to stay.”

Why fava beans?

Van der Vaart: “Cosun started with fava beans because the protein content of this bean is high at 20-25% and the flour has a naturally neutral taste. Growing these beans is sustainable because little fertilizer is needed due to the nitrogen-fixing capacity of the plants, which also leave a lot of nitrogen in the soil. Sustainability is also evidenced by the low water use of fava beans. The fava bean currently mainly comes from Germany and to a small extent from the Netherlands, limiting the environmental impact of transportation. The intention is to have more fava beans from Dutch soil in the future.”

Quality protein

Fava beans contain a lot of protein as well as dietary fiber and minerals. The protein of fava beans matches animal protein reasonably well. The limiting (insufficiently present) amino acids in the protein are methionine and cysteine, as in all types of beans. Van der Vaart: “Enrichment with these amino acids is possible but the preference is using supplementary proteins from other raw materials if a complete amino acid profile is desired. Because our fava bean protein is used for its functional properties, this is by no means always the case.”


“The consumption of fava beans has a long tradition and its use is safe,” Van der Vaart said. A known problem with fava beans is favism in susceptible individuals. Favism is a condition caused by a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency which manifests as acute hemolytic anemia (anemia). In people with too little GD6D, the red blood cell loses structure and function, making the cells especially susceptible to oxidative damage. Van der Vaart: “When we purchase fava beans, we select beans that are low in alkaloids. Our processing lowers the levels of these substances so that susceptible people can also tolerate products with fava bean protein.”


Van der Vaart: “Due to our mild processing, the protein does not denature (unfold) and retains its original functionality (formation of an emulsion). Due to its neutral taste, fava bean protein can be an important part of the final product. Its viscosity in water at high concentrations does not increase greatly, giving it a good mouthfeel. Currently, dairy alternatives, such as use in (alternatives to) ice cream, yogurt and cheeses, are the main application and with complete milk replacement, the claim ‘vegan’ can be made.”


Van der Vaart: “Plant-based protein is a growth market with ups and downs. There are many competitors and that is a good thing because it accelerates the protein transition. In further development, we are guided in part by the feedback we receive from customers, both companies and consumers.” For the future, Van der Vaart anticipates that food proteins will also be extracted from residual streams, from sugar beets, for example.

Media contact

Andries Olie, Spokesman
Andries Olie, Spokesman
Senior Manager of Nutrition, Health and Sustainability