Plant proteins

Around 60% of protein consumed in the Netherlands originates from animal sources and around 40% from plant sources.

A shift towards a more plant-based and less animal-based diet in accordance with national and international dietary guidelines is conducive to better health outcomes and greater sustainability. For this reason, various organisations in the Netherlands are steering towards a transition from 60% animal, 40% plant protein intake to 40% animal, 60% plant protein intake. This is referred to as the ‘protein transition’.



The fava bean (Vicia faba L.), also known as the broad bean or field bean, is one of the oldest crops in the world. It is an important source of protein in North and East Africa, West and East Asia and the Middle East. The recommendation to eat a more plant-based and less animal-based diet has brought renewed attention to the fava bean.

In summary:

  • The fava bean is easy to grow in the Netherlands. The best sowing time is between mid-February and late March and it can be harvested between mid-August and mid-September.
  • The fava bean is a legume. The Health Council of the Netherlands recommends eating legumes weekly because their consumption leads to a reduction in LDL cholesterol.
  • Fava beans are nutritious and – depending on the species and growing conditions, among other things – consist of 20-41% protein and 51-68% carbohydrates, primarily starch, on a dry weight basis.
  • The amino acid profile of the fava bean is comparable to that of the soybean, except that the soybean has higher levels of methionine and tryptophan.
  • Fava beans must be eaten cooked. They can also be processed into flour or protein concentrate or isolate, which can be used as a product ingredient.
  • Protein ingredients derived from the fava bean have the potential to be used as foaming agents, emulsifiers and gelling agents for the production of dairy and meat substitutes.
  • The fava bean naturally contains anti-nutritional factors that negatively affect the bio-availability of proteins and minerals. Isolating fava protein increases the nutritional value and bio-availability.
  • Like other legumes, fava beans have a specific taste that not everyone likes. The taste of fava beans can be neutralised through certain preparation methods.


The leaves of plants, including those of the sugar beet, contain the enzyme Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase, also known as RuBisCo. This enzyme is essential for photosynthesis and one of the most common proteins on the planet. RuBisCo is a relevant plant-based source of protein in food and can be used as a functional ingredient. Since 2019, Cosun has been extracting RuBisCo protein from sugar beet leaves on a demo scale.

In summary:

  • RuBisCo contains a large amount of essential amino acids, unlike a lot of other plant proteins in which the amount of essential amino acids is often relatively lower.
  • RuBisCo is easily digestible and has low allergenicity.
  • In food products, RuBisCo is highly suitable as an emulsifier, foaming and/or gelling agent. This makes RuBisCo a suitable plant-based alternative to chicken egg protein in products.
  • A limitation of RuBisCo is that the extraction and purification process is labour-intensive and it is a relatively expensive nutrient. Research is being conducted into ways to optimise the extraction of the protein from leaves.


  • Fact sheet - Plant-based proteins

    Fact sheet - Plant-based proteins

    Because of the positive effect on health and the environment, there is an increasing focus on plant-based foods.
    Bestandstype: pdf
  • Fact sheet - Fava bean

    Fact sheet - Fava bean

    This fact sheet discusses the nutritional properties, carbon footprint and food safety of the fava bean.
    Bestandstype: pdf