Could supplemental protein in baked foods act as a more affordable, more food-like form of sports nutrition for America’s aging population? And what’s its role in gluten-free foods? Michael Beaven, project manager, Watson, Inc., West Haven, CT, explores these topics in this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A.

Baking & Snack: What prompts the formulation of baked foods and snacks with added protein content? What consumer needs and/or desires are served by this trend?

Michael Beavan: I believe that this trend is coming from an ageing population seeking more nutritionally dense food in a convenient and acceptable form. This is a population that wants to remain active and healthy but is having trouble e.g., managing weight and maintaining muscle mass. Proteins, both as a macronutrient and as a specialized nutrient, help to promote satiety and build muscle for active weight maintenance. Maybe consumers are pressing the food industry for a gentler, more affordable and a more food-like form of sports nutrition!

What can non-wheat protein sources bring to formulation of gluten-free products? What is most important in their use? Is it structure forming? Added nutritional value? Or something else?

As “newish” products without a recognized standard (by this I mean there is no true equivalent of an “enriched white bread” and a “whole wheat bread” among gluten-free baked foods), gluten–free products offer a better opportunity to deliver meaningful protein-fortified products than do traditional wheat products.

Our gluteNONE line of gluten-free mixes use a combination of egg, legume and grain proteins to provide not only extra nutrition but also the necessary emulsifying, stabilizing and strengthening functions required for a soft, but strong, expanded baked product.

What factors should a formulator weigh when choosing an ingredient to supplement the protein content of a baked food or snack?

As we found out with low-carb breads, replacing starch with protein (and fiber) and still producing acceptable “bread” was not easy. Meaningful protein fortification of breads faces the same challenges. Proteins are expensive, relative to starches, and with many, allergenic, color and flavor can be issues. They tend to disrupt gluten development, and their high water-binding capacity makes for elastic doughs and breads with a distinctive “bite”. However, with processing innovations, use of heat and enzymes together with micronizing and encapsulation, we are working to overcome some of these restrictions.

What protein supplements does Watson, Inc. provide for bakery and snack use? (Brand names are fine.) And how do they benefit bakery and/or snack applications?

Watson provides blends of wheat and legume flours, usually as part of customized mixes and bases, for baked goods, to take advantage of the enhanced protein quality of the combination. We also develop and manufacture customized protein fortification blends using dairy, grain and legume isolates and concentrates, principally for sports and nutrition bars.