Product Development

Plastic wrap composed almost exclusively of bean protein

By re-thinking traditional uses for the common dry bean, University of Guelph researchers have discovered a process that converts proteins extracted from beans not suitable for the food industry into edible films for food packaging.

The purpose of food packaging is to preserve the quality and safety of the food. However, a widespread environmental concern over packaging waste has led modern industries to establish directives on reducing the impact of packaging waste on the environment. As a substitute for plastic wraps, films composed almost exclusively of bean protein are being developed as a feasible alternative. Such films are not only edible, but also rapidly biodegrade, so in an era where both producers and consumers are increasingly conscious about waste reduction, the potential for edible food packaging is vast.

Thermoforming protein film for use as food trays

Research is being done on developing different ways in which the protein film can be utilized by the food industry.  For example, the films can be heat-sealed into pouches to contain food items such as dried soup bases and flavor packs.  These pouches rapidly dissolve in boiling water and add virtually nothing more than nutritious bean protein to the food being prepared.

Thermoforming machines have also been used to stretch the protein film into molded products such as the interior lining for a box of chocolates or for pharmaceutical capsules.    Alternatively, edible films could also be applied directly on to the surface of fresh food products in order to prolong shelf life and maintain freshness and nutritive value.

Edible films, produced from bean protein, for food packaging

Protein isolates from differing dry bean varieties have produced films of varying strength and elasticity. When synthetic polymer films are being manufactured, the incorporation of low-molecular-weight plasticizers modifies the films flexibility and durability. Glycerol, a compound already used extensively by the food industry has been used for this purpose in the bean protein films. In these ways strength and elasticity properties of the films can be varied to ensure that the film being developed is suitable for each application.

With continued research, applications for this technology are both widespread and exciting.


royal winter fair 2012







Along with other bioproducts projects being funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, our bean biofilm products are on display at this years Royal Agriculture Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario. Jane Thorpe of AAFC Guelph, said the public's reaction to the products was very positive, and people seemed grateful that this kind of information overall was there for them to learn about.