Interest in plant-based diets shows no signs of slowing with consumers seeking out new foods and formats emphasizing protein content. Bakers have many options to explore the tastes, textures and nutrition of plant-based proteins, and the potential goes far beyond pulses.

Many ancient grains are concentrated sources of plant protein as they are whole grains and contain the entire seed of a plant: the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. This decreases the protein content by about 25% and removes many important nutrients.

Healthy Food Ingredients (HFI) offers a wide portfolio of non-G.M.O. and organic plant-based proteins, including ancient grains, flaxseed and purple corn. They are available in whole form or in further processed formats to suit many varied baking applications.

“Whole or milled flaxseed is an excellent inclusion or topping for bread,” said Jay Johnson, chief operating officer of HFI. “Our purple corn ingredients are value-added (plant protein ingredients), as they contribute exceedingly high levels of antioxidants and anthocyanins.”

Sprout powders are a new format of concentrated plant protein. These are sprouts from varied conventional and organic crops, including alfalfa, barley, broccoli, kale, mustard, oat, pumpkin, quinoa, radish and sunflower that are then dried and milled into a powder. They add protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and other nutrients to the foods.

Sprouts are vegetables typically harvested at about 3 to 7 days of growth and contain more nutrients than their full-grown counterparts, said Olivia Wong, marketing manager, Fullei Fresh, a company focused on hydroponically growing spouts in its vertically integrated facility. The non-G.M.O. sprouts are grown without the use of pesticides, and the powders are 100% pure sprouts, free of any additives or preservatives.

“Bread, cookies, granola bars and other baked goods with similar texture are best because of the powder texture and tastes,” Ms. Wong said. “Alfalfa sprout powder is the mildest, most neutral-tasting of the sprout powders and has high protein per serving at 38%. Others like broccoli, kale and radish are high-protein and nutritious but have a stronger taste. By blending them into bread, cookies and the like, the powder’s taste is somewhat masked, making for more pleasant tasting baked goods.”

Quintessence Nutraceuticals markets a rice extract ingredient made from the germ and bran layers of rice. It contains more than 70 antioxidants, 13% hydrolyzed proteins, dietary fiber and essential amino acids and may be used in a range of bakery applications up to 400°F, including granola bars, cookies and brownies.

“Sourced from 100% non-G.M.O. rice grown in the Sacramento Valley, the ingredient is not rice bran but rather a highly bioavailable and bioactive complex of nutrient-dense phytonutrients,” said Laura Tagliani, director of science and compliance for Quintessence Nutraceuticals. “It is made through a patented hydrolyzation and extraction process that unlocks the maximum available nutritional value of rice, making it bioavailable and bioactive. It is labeled simply ‘rice extract.’”

Wheat is the source of plant protein for MGP Ingredients Inc. Wheat protein isolates are made by wet-processing wheat flour into starch and gluten, where the gluten undergoes physical/mechanical processing with or without the addition of processing aids to yield high-protein (85% to 90%) gluten with varying extensibility and elastic properties.

“Yeast-leavened bakery products are prime candidates for application of wheat protein isolate,” said Ody Maningat, vice-president of research and development and chief science officer, MGP Ingredients. “Occasionally bakeries have to contend with variabilities in the quality of raw material flour. In cases where the flour is of marginal quality, an elastic wheat protein isolate is desired to remedy the problem.”

As more consumers switch to plant-based diets, varying the source of plant protein will help bakers reach consumer needs and demands.

“Meeting the nutritional needs and achieving the right functional requirements will require a broad range of protein alternatives that are sustainable, affordable and great tasting,” concluded Tony DeLio, senior vice-president of corporate strategy and chief innovation officer at Ingredion, Inc.