Protein may be a natural addition to any formulation, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without challenges. Formulators still have to keep an eye out for ways protein sources may interact and change the finished product. 

“Protein affects flavor, it affects texture, and it affects elemental functionality such as break, absorption, elasticity and leavening,” said Mark McKnight, senior vice-president, sales and marketing at RiceBran Technologies. “As bakers move toward more protein or as they move into gluten free formulas, all of these factors have to be considered and tested.”

As with all food, taste is king. “Consumers want nutritious foods but will not sacrifice taste to get it,” said Lesley Nicholson, marketing manager, WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients, a business unit of ADM. Proteins can have a very distinct taste, and too much can impart off-flavor notes to a finished product.

Sweet baked goods can often mask these flavors on their own, according to Loretta Martins, associate director, R&D, Glanbia Nutritionals. A cookie, for instance, would have less of an issue with taste than a muffin or bread. Glanbia’s Flavor Artistry division developed flavor maskers that can add a sweet or vanilla note to cover some of the frothy or dairy flavors that occur when fortifying with protein.

Bitterness is another flavor issue that can come up. ADM’s WILD Flavors Resolver technology modifies taste instead of covering it up. “It blocks the receptors that would taste off-notes and bitterness,” Ms. Nicholson explained.

Prinova USA also addresses protein’s bitterness with Bitter Blocker. Claire Meier, e-marketing coordinator, Prinova USA, said the flavor is the company’s No. 1 seller. The company has three different Bitter Blockers targeted to different applications.

Protein can also compromise dough machinability. It can hinder dough pliability, water absorption, raise batter viscosity and impact volume. “Too much protein may prevent you from being able to process a bakery product,” said Ody Maningat, PhD, vice-president and chief science officer, MGP Ingredients, Inc.

Addition of protein can raise batter and dough viscosity too high. This makes these products difficult to process. Proteins that maintain dough pliability and batter viscosity, such as Davisco’s BioZate 7 hydrolyzed whey protein, can be easier to work with in these cases.

Qualitech’s Flavor-ettes and Pell-ettes protein inclusions also address these operational issues — stickiness and lack of dough extensibility — while still delivering higher protein content. Because the protein is added via inclusion and not directly to the dough, machineability is unaffected.

Water is another critical element in baking that can be affected by the type and level of protein being added to the formulation. Water hydrates different components at different times in the mixer, and in the oven, it gelatinizes the starches. Water absorption also impacts shelf life. Some proteins can be slow to hydrate, which, in turn, impacts mixing time, bake time and viscoelasticity. “These phenomena can make certain protein ingredients frustrating to work with, but with some experimentation, there are many solutions available to help,”said Craig Sherwin, research director, Davisco Foods.

Volume is another place where protein can affect the finished product, according to Dr. Maningat. The protein and the level at which it is being used have a say in the amount of water, the mix time, bake time and proofing time to get the volume, viscoelasticity and texture expected from the finished product. All of which can be tested and refined by doing bake tests to understand any potential challenges specific proteins may cause. “[Formulators]really need to start by doing that because it avoids all the surprises,” he said. “They can identify how much water to use, how the dough feels, and that can be extrapolated in a plant setting.”

The face of meal time is changing, and with more and more consumers getting nutrition on-the-go and interest in weight control refusing to go away, protein has naturally risen to the top of the collective mind of consumers. Baked goods and snacks are an easy fit for the macronutrient. Formulators just have to find the source that’s right for their product, process and goals.