Innovation drives protein’s appeal to a wider audience.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of adding protein to their diet, whether it is related to satiety effects, weight management or a more balanced diet, said Brent Petersen, associate director of research at California-based Glanbia Nutritionals.
“Diversification isn’t the only approach we can see in the market. Protein is emerging as a premier macronutrient across multiple categories. However, it is also a challenging ingredient to work with and food and drink manufacturers are looking into new ways to optimize the functionality of every application,” Petersen added.
“The world’s population is growing and the peoples’ appetite for dietary protein is also increasing,” noted Alan Rillorta, director of branded ingredient and protein ingredients at California-based AIDP, Inc. “Animal proteins can only go so far and so opens the door for new sources of protein we might not have ever thought of before.”
“As a marketer of soy protein, DuPont Nutrition & Health believes that soy protein is well positioned to capitalize on the growing interest in protein, particularly as that interest moves more mainstream,” said Jean Heggie, strategic marketing lead at the Missouri-based company.
Soy protein is a high-quality, plant-based protein, with proven health benefits, and great functional performance in a wide range of flavor sensitive application. “This distinguishes it among other popular plant protein choices, which tend to be lower in protein quality and not as versatile or functional in food and beverage applications,” Heggie said.
In addition, Heggie explained, that compared to dairy proteins, soy protein is more economic, equivalent in protein quality and environmentally friendly. “For any company wishing to make its mark in the plant-protein market, soy protein’s supply reliability and documented low carbon footprint advantages also make it a preferred choice.”
Plant-based proteins have been an emerging trend in the past few years. New sources being utilized as proteins include: pea, rice, sacha, inchi, hydrolyzed wheat, hemp, coconut, sunflower, pumpkin, cranberry, quinoa, chickpea, potato and algae, Rillorta explained.
And it doesn’t stop there. “There is constant development of new plant protein ingredients and insect proteins too, like cricket,” Rillorta added.
Another trend that has taken the protein industry by storm is the blending of various protein sources to achieve a collective balance of each of their distinct benefits in nutrition, Rillorta said. “I think in the near future we will also see more plant and animal protein blends. Pea and whey protein can have terrific symbiosis. Pea can help balance the higher cost of whey protein and whey can help augment methionine and cysteine amino acids where pea protein is lacking.”
Blending the ingredients has its merits, as it can also take on different applications, from powders to bars and gummies.
“We’ve developed unique ingredient lines to deliver immediate protein levels in nutritional bar applications,” Petersen shared. “Some protein solutions are 100 percent dairy, while others blend whey and soy proteins. Several vegan protein combinations (pea, chia, soy and flaxseed) have also been recently introduced under the barGAIN and HarvestPro product lines to deliver softer texture, a longer shelf life and clean flavor and nutritional profiles.”
Milk & Whey
While some trends are falling into the vegan category, a secondary trend for those seeking milk and whey proteins has also emerged. The demand for certified organic, grass fed and hormone free, is taking off, said Benoit Turpin MSc, CNHO, vice president of international sales-human nutrition for Minnesota-based Milk Specialties Global.
“Milk Specialties has been adding manufacturing capacity at just about every single manufacturing facility, encompassing both raw material manufacturing (such as whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates, milk protein concentrates, milk protein isolates and micellar casein) as well as contract manufacturing (blending and packaging). Being that milk and whey proteins offer some of the best naturally occurring amino acids profiles (both essential amino acids (EAA) and branched chained amino acids (BCAA)), both categories are in very high demand,” Turpin explained.
In addition to the focus on organic, food manufacturers prefer a U.S. origin protein source versus an off-shore supply, said Tyler Lorenzen, president, Proteins and Ingredients, World Food Processing in Minneapolis. “There are many reasons for this, but we feel the sustainability, proximity to the source and manufacturers proves to be a valuable supply chain strategy.”
What is behind these increasing trends in organic, grass-fed and plant-based? Consumers are looking for simple, sustainable, organic options, including non-GMO (genetically modified organisms), gluten free and vegan.
Heggie agreed. “That is why DuPont Nutrition & Health has invested significantly in understanding the sensory, functional and nutritional synergies in blending proteins, both dairy and soy, and soy and other plant proteins.”
“Consumer interest in protein is expanding and coming from many different segments,” said Heggie. “Demand is strong in the traditional sports nutrition and weight-management markets, who have always been interested in protein, and new opportunities are emerging targeting child nutrition, healthy aging and among mainstream active, health conscious consumers.”
Protein’s popularity shows no signs of abating and this demand will drive innovative methods of formulation using new protein sources, according to Petersen. “While dairy proteins continue to be a popular ingredient, specific trends like vegan and GMO-verified are driving demand for products that deliver more protein per serving, while consumer preference for label transparency will see longevity in plant-based proteins such as pea, flax and hemp.”
World Food Processing has seen an accelerated growth in pea protein over other plant protein sources such as soy, Lorenzen shared. “Our PURISPea Protein hits every major food trend, such as: clean label, non-GMO, allergen friendly, gluten free and dairy free, while not compromising on great taste and mouth feel.”
“There is a growing number of exciting and innovative protein delivery formats,” Rillorta said. “Aside from the traditional powder protein delivery system, some of these protein ingredients are finding their way into places we never really thought of before: ice cream, cereals, cookies and even meat substitutes. Pea protein is extruded to the consistency and texture of chicken and beef.”
“Proteins deliver different tastes and textures, so formulation challenges and successes will vary depending on the end product,” Petersen added. “The key aspect is having the ability to process and develop ingredients and concepts in a way that is appealing to consumers.”
Customers are looking for novel sensory experiences. “With this in mind,” Turpin said, “Milk Specialties has developed a wide range of lightly fermented high protein Milk Protein Concentrates (for smoothie-type applications) as well as specific recipes of savory snacks.”
Extended shelf life is also a challenge that formulators encounter that innovations have addressed. “Milk Specialties offers proteins with functional properties so that in addition to the extraordinary amino acid profiles, its proteins allow formulators to design products with less stabilizers and extended shelf lives. Furthermore, Milk Specialties has the ability to selectively enrich certain protein hydrolysates with specific amino acids,” Turpin said.
Protein fortification continues to be a hot topic in the industry, Petersen said. “Protein-fortified gummy snacks are becoming a popular alternative to healthy snacking. This new type of product application fulfills the need for convenient protein supplementation and opens the way to a new category in the industry.”
Glanbia Nutritionals developed BevWise I-300W series, a range of whey proteins designed for use in gummy applications. “Usually, when adding protein to gummy applications changes in texture can cause clogs in the equipment. BevWise’s functional properties allows manufacturers to overcome the traditional formulation challenges,” Petersen shared.
“Protein’s appeal is more universal today, thus, flavor is becoming more important in executing high-protein foods and beverages,” Heggie said. “As more mainstream consumers explore the protein beverage category, taste and ease of dispersibility become important criteria for building brand preference in the dry blended beverage market.”
DuPont Nutrition & Health recently introduced SUPRO XT 221D Isolated Soy Protein, a new protein for dry blended beverages that offers best-in-class dispersibility, along with excellent flavor and functional performance, Heggie added.
DuPont’s Beverage Drivers of Liking Study is a sensory-based study that looks at the universe of commercial ready-to-drink high-protein beverages to understand what drives consumer liking in this category.
“This knowledge enables us to help our customers define and implement formulation strategies that can improve the sensory performance of their brands,” Heggie noted. “Our study also reinforced that beverages based on blends of dairy and soy proteins tend to result in higher liking scores than either all-dairy or all-plant-based beverages.”
Studies in the areas of sports nutrition are also important in regard to proteins and amino acids. “Extremely popular in the sports nutrition market for its muscle building potential, whey proteins are now at the center of research projects investigating weight loss, recovery and bone health,” Petersen pointed out. “Thanks to their unique amino acid content and rapid digestibility, whey proteins are thought to reduce osteoarthritis-related bone loss and support healthy bones.”
One study that supported this was an in-vivo study at the University of Korea, Whey Protein Concentrate Hydrolysate Prevents Bone Loss in Ovariectomized Rats, which confirmed once again whey protein concentrate hydrolysate’s capacity to improve bone loss induced by ovariectomy in rats.
In addition to the hundreds of studies done on soy protein, one in particular that DuPont supported looked at the value of soy and dairy blends for building muscle mass, demonstrating that these blends have the capability to extend the window of time, post-exercise, when muscle building can occur.
“This research has implications for products that are designed to help maximize muscle gains,” Heggie shared.
Clinical trials of pea and rice protein show the same efficacy as whey protein in building and retaining muscle mass, according to Rillorta. “This shows promise that plant proteins can be just as good as animal proteins and is just what we need to battle the long established stigma that plant proteins are inferior to animal proteins.” Rillorta noted.
“We are really excited to show some of our innovative proteins that may alter some of the current opinions on amino acid absorption of pea protein,” Lorenzen added.
To the Future
Innovations continue to happen from new concepts to delivery systems, Lorenzen said. “We find some of our customers making the consumption of protein more tailored to the ‘on-the-go’ consumer, not stopping at only bars and shakes, but stretching the potential to applications covering every meal that can be taken during a fast-paced schedule.”
Petersen agreed, adding, “More and more options are being offered in the grocery aisles in a variety of applications, including dairy, beverages and bakery, to meet the needs of the most discerning customers.” NIE
For More Information:
AIDP, Inc., (866) 262-6699
DuPont Nutrition & Health, (314) 659-3000
Glanbia Nutritionals, (800) 735-8137
Milk Specialties Global, (952) 942-7310
World Food Processing, (641) 672-9651