Beyond whey: Emerging sources of protein

by Monica Watrous
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ANAHEIM, CALIF. — A key trend in product development, protein has gained prominence in new snacks, cereals and meals in the market. Linked with satiety and weight management benefits, protein has become an increasingly appealing attribute to consumers, with 60% of men and 67% of women seeking the nutrient in packaged food products, according to Mintel International, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Natural product developers are exploring new ways to deliver protein with an eye to calorie reduction and convenience, as well as allergy-free alternatives to such traditional sources as soy and dairy, and many examples were on display during the Natural Products Expo West, held March 6-9 in Anaheim.

Pea protein

Pea protein offers a solution to the demand for products made without bioengineered ingredients, such as soy or dairy cattle potentially fed feed sourced from bioengineered crops. A new line of organic chewy granola bars from Cascadian Farm, a General Mills, Inc. brand, leverages the plant-based source with 9 grams of protein in two flavors: honey roasted nut and peanut butter chocolate chip.

Cascadian Farm Protein Chewy Bars


Kind Healthy Snacks, New York, is introducing a new Strong & Kind line of bars that contain 10 grams of protein from a combination of almonds, seeds and pea protein. Varieties include such savory flavors as honey smoked barbecue, Thai sweet chili and roasted jalapeno.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are sprouting in snack mixes and bars. SuperSeedz, a brand from Kathie’s Kitchen L.L.C., North Haven, Conn., offers shelled, dry-roasted pumpkin seeds in eight flavors, including cocoa and coffee, cinnamon and sugar, and spicy varieties. Gypsy Crunch, a new line of gluten-free granolas, gets a protein boost from pumpkin seeds, in addition to pistachios and almonds.

Brad’s Raw Sprouted Seeds, from Brad’s Raw Foods, Pipersville, Pa., feature pumpkin seeds that have been soaked and germinated in filtered water and flavored with organic seasonings. Clif Bar & Co., Emeryville, Calif., is debuting new fruit and seed varieties under its Kit’s Organic bar line featuring a cherry and pumpkin seed flavor.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are breaking out beyond hummus as a protein provider in such products as Freedom Foods, a business unit of the Freedom Foods Group, Caringbah, Australia, is introducing Pro-Teen Crunch cereal, which has 3 grams per serving from chickpea flour. Organic garbanzo beans are the top ingredient in a new line of chocolate-flavored spreads from Hope Foods, Boulder, Colo., a maker of hummus products. Maya Kaimal Chickpea Chips are gluten-free snack chips in lightly salted, seeded multigrain and sweet chili varieties. Chick-a-peas are a baked crunchy chickpea-based snack in sea salt and falafel flavors.

Buffalo

A staple of the Paleo diet, buffalo bucks beef as a lean option in meat snacks and jerkies. Tanka Bar, a brand of Native American Natural Foods, Kyle, S.D., offers buffalo meat-based sticks with 70 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving. In addition to turkey, beef and lamb, Epic Bar, Austin, Texas, has a variety of protein bars made with grass-fed bison. The low-glycemic, gluten-free product has 11 grams of protein and also features uncured bacon and dried cranberries.

Epic Bar


Quinoa

Positioned as “the plant kingdom’s perfect protein” in a new line of bars from Keen-Wah, the ancient grain also is gaining fame as a plant-powered boost in such products as a breakfast range launching from Qrunch Foods, which also makes quinoa-based veggie burgers. Qrunch Toastables are gluten-free waffle alternatives made with organic quinoa, amaranth and millet in such flavors as cinnamon vanilla, blueberry lemon and rich maple. I Heart Keenwah quinoa clusters have a peanut brittle texture and sweet flavor combinations, including chocolate sea salt, cranberry cashew, ginger peanut and peanut butter cacao.

Pecans

A new meat alternative product called neat, from Neat Foods L.L.C., Lancaster, Pa., uses pecans, along with garbanzo beans and gluten-free whole grain oats and cornmeal, to add protein and flavor with the texture of ground beef. The products are soy- and gluten-free and available in three varieties: original, Italian and Mexican, with 4 grams of protein per serving.

Neat Foods meat alternative product


And finally, cricket

While insects won’t soon be infesting mainstream products, cricket flour provides a lean and sustainable source of protein in a line of new energy bars from Chapul, Salt Lake City. Made with organic dates, peanuts, oats and milled brown crickets, the peanut butter and chocolate flavor contains 8 grams of protein. According to the company, insects require fewer land resources, emit fewer greenhouse gasses and require less water than livestock, soy, corn and rice.

Chapul energy bars

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