Protein is everywhere these days. It’s the hot spot of the health-and-wellness trend. According to the 2015 IFIC Food & Health Survey, more than 60% of Americans seek foods high in proteins.

“Protein is gaining popularity among consumers because of its health halo,” said Ody Maningat, PhD, vice-president and chief science officer, MGP Ingredients, Inc. “In general, proteins supply the amino acids important for muscle growth, development and maintenance. High-protein foods leave people more satisfied after eating and lessen the appetite to eat more. Evidence also suggests that protein may be important during exercise as shown in the reduction in muscle damage and enhanced recovery in individuals after workout.”

Protein is wrapped up in one of the health-and-wellness angles that appeal to people most: satiety that leads to weight control. The satiety aspect of protein also makes it fit well into the move away from three square meals to smaller meals eaten on the move. “Consumers are eating less traditional meals and more convenient snacks,” said Claire Meier, e-marketing coordinator, Prinova USA. “As a result, they are also seeking more nutritious snacks to help them get through the day. Protein is the hottest macronutrient right now, since it helps with satiety as well as muscle repair and weight loss.”

With a healthy halo and more consumers snacking, the snack and bakery categories are not immune to the protein trend.

“Snacks and baked goods have moved beyond mere indulgence and empty calories,” said Lesley Nicholson, marketing manager, WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients, a business unit of ADM. “Consumers today have the expectation that snacks and bakery products will also provide real nutrition and health benefits.”

Bakery and snack items are a natural fit for protein fortification because the macronutrient provides plenty of functional abilities. “Protein can provide great emulsification, good solubility and water-binding properties,” said Phil Blanchard, bakery sales manager, Agropur. “It has a multitude of functional and nutritional benefits within bakery applications; for example, it can aid in preventing staling.”

Protein can also slip into a formulation with relative ease. “Protein fortification can deliver exceptional nutritional value to baked goods and snacks without impacting the taste and texture that people love,” said Mark Brooks, senior vice-president of food ingredients, Solazyme.

Protein has many functional and nutritional benefits for bakery and snack foods, but finding the right one is key to managing any formulation challenges that may crop up and to delivering the benefits producers expect.

Choosing a protein

There are many different sources of protein that can be used in bakery and snack applications: dairy, egg, wheat, soy, pea and even algae proteins. Choosing the right one largely depends on the end goals defined by the finished product.

“The best protein source really depends on the need that the product developer is trying to address,” said Pat O’Brien, manager, strategic business development, Ingredion Inc. Formulators need to consider whether they want the protein to enhance the nutritional value of the product and by how much or if the protein will serve a functional purpose in the formulation. Maybe the protein delivers both a nutritional boost and processing functionality. The point is, each protein source does something different.

“What is important to remember is that each protein ingredient component brings unique properties to a bakery product,” said Aaron Martin, sports nutrition manager, Agropur Ingredients. “For instance, casienate can really aid in retaining moisture while whey will provide some rigidity to a product. Similarly, milk protein, soy, rice, etc. will have inherent benefits and pitfalls within products. Striking a balance is crucial.” With its BakiGen bakery ingredients, Agropur can tailor-make a system to meet a baker’s formulating needs.

After considering functional and nutritional benefits, formulators should also be aware of how different protein sources will affect the finished product. “In fortifying bakery products, especially yeast-leavened products, with protein, the formulator needs to consider the protein’s impact on water absorption, mixing time, dough handling and finished baked product attributes like loaf volume, crumb texture and taste,” Dr. Maningat said.

Food allergies another critical concern because many protein sources are allergens. Companies must decide if they want allergen-free products or which allergens they are comfortable with. “If a product developer is looking to replace an allergen or would prefer a non-GMO or vegan source of protein, then a pea, faba bean or lentil protein might be a good solution,” Mr. O’Brien said. “If a product developer is interested in the highest possible protein digestibility-corrected aminop acid score (PDCAAS), then a whey or soy protein might be a good option. The best protein source really depends on what the product developer is trying to achieve.”

So many sources

With so many options to choose from for protein fortification, it’s important to understand the benefits and challenges each one brings to the formulating bench. “There are obviously a variety of protein sources out there, but when it comes to bakery, the manufacturing conditions are a big consideration,” Mr. Blanchard said. “There are proteins that definitely cannot provide the same level of performance in structure, and some even contribute negative flavor elements after going through the high-heat baking process.”

Whey is commonly used in bakery applications because it combines high functionality with an impressive nutrition profile and clean flavor.

“It is highly functional, and with the right knowledge and technology, it can be used in bakery and snack applications to enhance quality and nutrition, or even both,” said John Gelley, US sales manager, Arla Foods Ingredients. “Depending on which protein is used, it can provide improved structure, emulsification, volume, mouthfeel and batter viscosity.” The company’s Nutrilac range of whey proteins can deliver structure for muffins and pound cakes as well as the air incorporation necessary for sponge cake.

Proteins derived from milk have a natural vibe that appeals to consumers interested in the buzzword, and whey packs nutrition. “Dairy proteins are generally regarded as the most nutritional proteins due to their complete amino acid profile and high bioavailabity and digestibility,” said Craig Sherwin, research director, Davisco Foods. Being a dairy product, however, whey is an allergen and must be labeled as such.

Plant-based proteins — wheat, soy, pea and others — also work well in fortifying bakery and snack products with little negative effects on the final product. “Plant-based proteins work best, specifically wheat proteins because of their compatibility with flour-based foods like bakery and snack products,” Dr. Maningat said. “The protein in wheat flour has the same elasticity and extensibility properties as isolated wheat proteins. There will be negligible impact on color, taste, aroma and texture of the finished food products fortified with isolated wheat proteins.”

MGP Ingredients’ Arise wheat protein isolates contribute proteins to meet Daily Value requirements while at the same time adding functionality such as elasticity and extensibility properties, extend shelf life, improve texture and even replace egg protein products.

Wheat’s gluten proteins provide gluten strength to give products’ their structure. “Wheat proteins are critical to providing the texture we know and love in bakery and snack products,” said Brook Carson, vice-president of product development and marketing, Manildra. However, Ms. Carson added that Manildra’s GemPro wheat protein isolates can do more than provide gluten strength.

“While gluten strength is important, wheat proteins can also contribute aeration and improve dough rheology, extensibility and film-forming capacity,” she said. “If you think about some of the deficiencies you see in texture or mouthfeel when formulating high-protein products, wheat proteins might provide the functional solution while also contributing to that protein goal.”

Other plant-based proteins include those derived from pea, lentils, beans, soy and even algae. These can aid in protein fortification for gluten-free or vegan products as well as pull in consumers interested in clean-label ingredients.

“Soy protein is an equivalent protein to dairy and meat protein in terms of adjustability and protein content,” Ms. Nicholson said.  “It is a complete protein. If someone is looking for a high load of complete protein in their bar or snack item, that’s a good way to go.”

ADM recently expanded its line of soy proteins to include its Textura line of extruded crisps. These crisps come in a variety of sizes and protein content and sources soy, bean powders, vegetable powders, whole grains, quinoa. They allow snack producers to easily add a lot of protein and texture to snacks.

Natural Products, Inc. (NPI) is looking at a new way to use soy ingredients but offering minimally processed soy protein. “The idea behind minimal processing is to do only what is needed to produce a high quality and safe food ingredient while retaining the nutritional profile of the original grain or seed,” said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager, NPI. The company’s Low Fat Soy Flour has 50% protein and can help formulators reach 6.25 g soy protein per serving.

Mr. Stratford explained that by selecting ingredients with minimal processing, formulators could have the freedom to develop better-for-you foods rich in plant protein rather than chase a quantitative protein goal.

Soy, pea, lentil and bean proteins can also deliver the nutritional benefits of protein fortification while maintaining a clean and allergen-free label. To meet these consumer demands, Ingredion joined forces with AGT Foods to develop a line of pulse-based proteins and flours: Vitessence pulse-based proteins and Homecraft pulse-based flours.

The Vitessence line is derived from pea, lentil and faba bean. “These pulse-based proteins boost the nutritional content and provide unique textural properties that can contribute to a desired eating experience,” Mr. O’Brien said.

The Homecraft line adds chickpeas to its protein derivatives line-up. “The ingredients help product developers meet clean-label trends while also providing unique functionality and cost savings in a variety of applications,” Mr. O’Brien continued.

Algae protein is an up-and-coming protein source that is finding opportunities in baking and snack applications. Whole algae protein is a whole food ingredient protected inside the natural microalgae cell wall, which limits its interaction with other food ingredients. It can also be added in a wide range of applications without stabilizing ingredients. Solazyme’s Alga Via Whole Algae Protein is rich in protein, dietary fiber, healthy lipids and micronutrients. It also has a high digestibility score at 88% and is vegan-friendly. “This is an entirely new way to think about working with protein,” Mr. Brooks said.