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UMR Procédés Alimentaires et Microbiologiques

Physico-chemistry of Food and Wine (PCAV)

The PCAV team « Physical Chemistry of Food and Wine » groups together
chemists and physical chemists who work on ingredients and foods, wines and
spirits, and materials in contact with or from foods/wines.

The research activities are organized into 4 axes:

  • Valorisation of new bio-resources and co-products
  • Formulation and processing
  • Stability - Shelf-life
  • Evaluation of performances and qualities

 schema PCAV eng

Axis 1: The valorisation of new bio-resources and co-products

The search for animal protein-alternatives and the preservation of their
functionalities is a major challenge for new food design.
Some molecules are currently under-valued: pea proteins, proteins from fishing
industry waste, proteins from microalgae, proteins from blood from
slaughterhouses...

To establish this expertise and give it an innovative dimension, the team has set
up a combination of strategies, which integrate on the one hand "clean label"
approaches, and on the other collaborations with new scientific partners.

Other molecules from agro-resources, such as polysaccharides or smaller
molecules of interest, can also be used in the food or cosmetic industries, or even
in the form of coatings or integrated into food packaging.

For example, the VALVIGNE project (2020-2022) aims to enhance the value of coproducts of the wine industry such as pomace to extract oligopeptides and
oligosaccharides, which can have applications in oenology (new antioxidants) or
viticulture (new elicitors). Within the framework of this project, the team
developed new green extraction processes based on supercritical CO2, subcritical
water and microwaves, in order to reduce the environmental impact of the
extraction methods.

Axis 2: The formulation and processing

The valorization of natural resources is based on 3 aspects: the efficiency of
extraction methods, the degree of isolation and the preservation of native
structures. However, it is often necessary to functionalize these molecules which
sometimes have a weak technological aptitude initially. These targeted
functionalities ar+e varied: rapid solubilization in water or, conversely, aptitude
for rapid decantation; capacity to emulsify or to swell; gelling power; film-forming
aptitude; aptitude to form glasses in a slightly hydrated state; aptitude for aroma
retention or even catalytic aptitude (for example enzymatic).

The study of the impact of processes on technological capabilities cannot be
limited to an analysis of capacity gains. It is also necessary to understand the
consequence of a process on the conformation of the macromolecule, or on the
structure of the matrix (food or film) at the end of the process. For this purpose,
the PCAV team has developed an expertise in tools and methods of structure
characterization at different scales (infrared spectroscopies, Raman, low field
NMR, circular dichroism, neutron scattering). This can vary from the molecular
scale (secondary structure of a protein or a peptide) to the microstructural scale.

Axis 3: The study of the stability of products

In the field of oenology, this theme has become the identity of the PCAV team.
We have become a leader in the study of the oxidative stability of white wines
thanks to a unique integrated methodological approach. This approach covers the
chemistry of wine up to the physical chemistry of oenological stoppers. It
provides decision-making tools to the wine industry, allowing a "personalized
oenology" to reduce additives during the wine-making process, and ultimately to
be able to choose the process and the stopper best-suited to letting the wine age
best.

The development of non-targeted analyses, such as metabolomics applied to
wine (the most exhaustive analysis possible of all the metabolites of a
biochemical system), offers a systemic approach integrating viticulture and
oenology. This approach is based on the hypothesis that the instantaneous
composition of a wine is the result of multiparametric processes at work from the
vine to the bottle.

In addition, the study of oxidation mechanisms, governing the stability of
foodstuffs, remains a major challenge in order to protect the products better. The
role of metals is particularly important, as for example, iron, acting as a catalyst
of oxidation reactions. New assay methodologies need to be developed.

The work of the PCAV team on product stability also targets the protection
conferred by the packaging. High oxygen-barrier, active (antioxidant) and
intelligent packaging are all being developed. A smart system capable of
providing information on the state of oxidation of the packaged product has even
recently given rise to a patent.

Finally, this theme addresses the issue of the physical stability of food matrices.
This is based on the study of fundamental concepts such as the role of water and
environmental parameters on the physical and chemical stability of polymers.

Axis 4: The evaluation of their qualities and performances

The question of performance and quality evaluation constitutes a gateway to
scientific themes related to food and wine. The previous research is considered in
relation to environmental concerns and/or societal expectations.

The design of targeted analytical methods, based on the synthesis of molecular
imprinted polymers or specific molecular probes, opens up original applications in
the development of intelligent materials. There is also the potential for improved
performance monitoring by detecting marker molecules or active compounds in
trace amounts. Future research includes detection of contaminants in food or
recycled materials, allergens, or fraud detection.

Global quality evaluation, which now represents a strong competence developed
within the PCAV team, is also oriented towards the determination of the "typicity"
of products. First applied to wine, it has also been extended to other products
with geographical authentication needs. For example, the CASSIS Project
(“Blackcurrant”) groups the producers of the sector in Burgundy.

Environmental concerns related to climate change have led the PCAV team to
develop an innovative approach to the concept of quality of agri-food matrices.
Metabolomic, climatological and oenological data are examined as one. The
metabolic response of some grape varieties submitted to a wide range of global
climatic conditions, will allow the metabolic future of the corresponding wines to
be anticipated under different climatic trajectories.

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