Options expand with peas, soybeans and even algae.

Avenues for packing plant-based protein into grain-based foods keep expanding. Experiments with milling technology may lead to the addition of more protein sourced from peas and other pulses into such items as pasta and pita bread. Protein sourced from soybeans, with a health claim riding along, continues to make inroads in cereal and bar product launches. Even protein from algae is gaining access to the roadway for baked food innovation.

Plant proteins made up 13.8% of the total revenue for the global protein and amino acids market in 2013, according to Frost & Sullivan, a global consulting firm. Animal protein took up 61.2%, and amino acids were at 25%.

The percentage may rise for plant protein in the coming years. The projected compound annual growth rate through 2020 for pea protein revenue is about 25% while revenues for soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate and textured soy protein all have CAGRs of about 10%, according to Frost & Sullivan. The projected CAGR for wheat protein revenue is about 5% through 2020.

Soy protein takes up a majority of the revenue in the plant protein ingredients market. Soy protein concentrate makes up 32.3% of the revenue while soy protein isolate is at 26.7% and textured soy protein is at 18.5%. Other ingredients in the market are wheat (22.2%) and pea (0.2%).

Released last year by Packaged Facts, the report “Functional Foods: Key Trends & Developments in Ingredients” addressed plant protein.

“There is now much greater interest in plant protein sources, as more attention is paid to sustainability, avoiding known allergens and the needs of vegetarians and vegans, perhaps contributing to the 54% of consumers who indicate they want more protein in their diets,” Packaged Facts said.

Within the cereal category, protein attributes were mentioned in 10% of the new product introductions from October 2013 to October 2014, according to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands. Protein trailed both fiber (34%) and whole grains (31%).

General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, lists soy protein as an ingredient in recently launched Cheerios Protein and Fiber One Protein cereal. Post Holdings, Inc., St. Louis, lists pea protein as an ingredient in recently launched Post Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy.

A focus on pulse milling

The percentage of protein in pulses ranges from about 20% to 35%, said Heather Maskus, project manager in pulses and specialty crop department for the Canadian International Grains Institute (cigi) in Winnipeg, Man. Protein in hard red winter wheat may range from 11% to 14%.

Ms. Maskus said cigi focuses on pulses commonly grown in Canada, such as yellow peas, red lentils, green lentils, navy beans, black beans, pinto beans and chickpeas. This year cigi will investigate how milling pulses affects the functionality and nutritional quality of pulse flours. For example, cigi wants to maximize protein segregation in the roller milling process. Percentages of protein content in mill streams have ranged from 20% to 28%, she said.

Roller milling technology is a gradual process to reduce the endosperm of wheat, Ms. Maskus said.

“In pulses, we don’t typically have some of the same limitations as wheat milling,” she said.

The seed coat or hull is removed more easily when milling pulses, she said. Also, different particle sizes may lead to different functional characteristics. Flour that is finely ground may work better in some applications.

“In other applications like crackers and pita bread, a slightly coarser flour can have beneficial effects on texture and end-product quality,” she said.

Working with equipment normally used in wheat milling, cigi has milled pulses on a lab scale and on a pilot scale.

“A little bit of tweaking is necessary, but for the most part we are running with some of the same parameters as wheat milling,” Ms. Maskus said.

Potential applications for pulse flours include crackers, chicken nuggets, extruded snack foods, extruded crisps, pasta, Asian noodles, pita bread and tortillas. Pulse flour may replace a certain percentage of wheat flour to boost protein content in a product. For example, raw pea flour may make up about 30% of the total flour before taste and texture become affected significantly, she said.

Pretreating pulses before milling may change flavor and functional attributes. Steam treating or roasting may allow for pulse flour inclusion of more than 30%.

“It changes the flavor characteristics of the flour,” Ms. Maskus said. “It imparts almost more of a nuttier flavor as well into that product application.”

Pulse crops offer sustainability benefits as well since they put nitrogen back into the soil, which reduces the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers.

More funding for pulse research is coming. The Canadian government will invest more than C$3.3 million ($2.8 million) to assist Pulse Canada, a national industry association representing growers, processors and traders of pulse crops, said Gerry Ritz, agriculture minister of Canada, on Jan. 13.

The government’s AgriMarketing Program will provide more than C$3 million in funding over five years under Growing Forward 2, a policy framework that helps farmers and food processors compete in both domestic and foreign markets. The funding includes C$1.3 million to generate new tools for the Canadian grain, oilseed and pulse industries that will measure the sustainability performance of Canadian agriculture; C$870,261 to market the nutritional value, health benefits and sustainability of Canadian pulses; and C$897,311 to engage Canadian stakeholders in support of eliminating trade barriers that limit growth opportunities.

Also, the GF2 AgriInnovation Program, which is part of Growing Forward 2, will provide C$270,000 in funding to allow the pulse sector to transfer knowledge and expertise to the food processing and ingredients sector.

Soybean’s claim

Soybeans may be incorporated into grain-based foods in such ways as soy flour or soy protein nuggets. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim that says 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

DuPont Nutrition & Health offers Supro soy protein nuggets for use in nutritional bars, cereals and snacks. Protein percentages for the nuggets range from 40% to 90%. The company’s soy ingredients are low in fat and saturated fat, have no cholesterol or lactose, and they promote satiety, according to DuPont Nutrition & Health.

Like pulses, soybeans belong to the legume family. Pulses are limited to crops harvested solely for dry grains. Crops, such as soybean, that are used mainly for oil extraction are excluded from the pulse definition, but they meet the definition for legumes.

Peanuts are another legume and potential protein source for inclusion in grain-based foods. Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts, a subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland Co., offers 12% fat peanut flour that is 50% protein and 28% peanut flour that is 40% protein.

Peanuts contain 7.3 grams of protein per oz, according to The Peanut Institute. Peanuts are an excellent source of niacin and manganese and a good source of fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, copper and phosphorus, according to the Institute.

Peanuts were the source of two recently published scientific studies.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School tracked almost 119,000 people from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for a 30-year period in a study that appeared in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine. When compared to people who did not eat peanuts, those who
consumed peanuts seven or more times a week cut their risks of death from all causes by about 20%. The reduction percentages for other groups were 13% for those who ate peanuts two to four times a week, 11% for those who ate peanuts once a week, and 7% for those who ate peanuts less than once a week.

Another study from Purdue University appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014. The study of 150 people found mean diastolic blood pressure significantly decreased for those who incorporated peanuts into their diet.

Approving algae

Recent studies on algae have focused on their safety as a food ingredient. Solazyme, Inc., San Francisco, in January said it had received a letter of no objection from the Food and Drug Administration on the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of whole algal protein as an ingredient in food and beverage products.

The company’s AlgaVia algal protein is vegan-friendly and gluten-free while it contains fiber, lipids and micronutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, according to Solazyme.

“Solazyme continues to build momentum in our microalgae food ingredient platform with this latest ‘no questions’ letter, an important milestone for the AlgaVia product line,” said Mark Brooks, senior vice-president of Solazyme.

In a cheese cracker formulation, Solazyme added about 19% AlgaVia whole algal protein and doubled the protein to 8 grams from 4 grams in a 30-gram serving.

The Packaged Facts report on functional foods covered microalgae.

“One of the most exciting ingredient developments showing great promise is microalgae,” Packaged Facts said. “Food ingredients sourced from microalgae are just starting to make their way onto the marketplace. This entirely new class of whole food ingredient gives functional food and beverage manufacturers the opportunity to offer traditional, fat laden foods with significantly reduced fat, cholesterol and saturated fat while adding protein, micronutrients and antioxidants, facilitating inherently shorter ingredient declarations, without introducing G.M.O.s or allergens.”