Many bakery consumers today are opting for products that are better for them and the environment. They want baked foods that are sustainably sourced, have a clean label and offer health benefits like high protein, low sugar, vegan and gluten-free. This movement has resulted in growing consumer demand for plant-based protein. 

“We are seeing the convergence of two growing consumer trends, health and sustainability, into one larger, more impactful trend of ‘better-for-us,’ ” explained Laurie Colin, senior technical business development manager, Blue Diamond’s Global Ingredients Division. “Within this environmental realm, consuming food that is better-for-us is often linked with alternative proteins and is shifting away from animal-based ingredients.”

For example, Beneo’s plant-based survey last year found that 72% of respondents would be influenced to buy baked foods and sweets that were high in plant-based protein. And globally, nearly half of consumers want to see more plant-based protein cookies in supermarkets. 

Despite the strong appetite for these foods, 2022 Mintel data shows that only 2% of new product launches in the bakery category in North America over the past three years carry a claim of added/high protein. 

“This signals a real opportunity for developers,” noted Steven Gumeny, product manager, rice ingredients and functional proteins, North America at Beneo. “Plant-based proteins not only perform well in baked foods but also allow the creation of products that appeal to a wide audience and stand out among the rest.”

Today there are plenty of plant proteins at bakers’ disposal, each posing unique benefits in baked foods as well as potential formulation challenges that must be considered. 

Pulses like peas, chickpeas, lentils and fava beans are popular options that can meet consumers’ evolving health and wellness needs. 

“As consumers increasingly scrutinize product labels, beans and pulses, including black and navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas and more, provide a sense of familiarity to shoppers seeking ingredients they recognize,” explained Jacquelyn Schuh, global marketing director, protein nutrition solutions, ADM.

Nearly 70% of consumers say recognizable simple ingredients influence their purchasing selections, ADM found. In addition to contributing to a clean label, these pulses can provide key functionality in vegan applications and other high-protein options, Ms. Schuh said, improving the texture of baked foods like breads, cakes and muffins. 

“Additionally, beans and pulses can help to deliver desired protein and fiber content, as well as interesting visual appeal and, in some cases, can enrich the flavor of chips, snacks, bars and artisanal breads,” she said. “Each of these elements enhances the perceived quality of the baked foods.”

Soy, for example, is the most commonly used plant protein in bakery applications and one of the few considered a “complete” protein, meaning it doesn’t need to be combined with wheat or rice protein to make a complete protein claim, explained McKenna Mills, senior technical services specialist for bakery, Cargill. Soy is especially useful in applications like cakes and often serves as a partial egg replacement to reduce costs. 

“It can also improve the elasticity of doughs, help control the viscosity of batters and enhance the crumb structure of breads,” she added. “In donuts and other fried products, soy protein can help reduce fat absorption. It’s also used in some gluten-free bakery applications, where it adds body and viscosity to batters.”

While soy is incredibly versatile, it’s also an allergen, so bakers may turn to pulses like peas in pursuit of a high-protein, allergen-free product.

Cargill partners with Puris to offer pea proteins that are a minimum 80% protein and sourced from non-GMO yellow pea seeds that minimize off-notes when processed. The company offers different pea proteins to meet bakers’ specific formulation needs. 

“For example, some Puris pea protein SKUs are better suited to crackers, where it’s important to prevent staling and moisture migration,” Ms. Mills said. “Other SKUs work better in breads, where controlling dough viscosity is a bigger priority. Puris even offers pea protein crisps, a great way to introduce a unique texture experience into a bar or snacking application.”

Fava bean is another promising plant protein source, Mr. Gumeny noted, because of its mild taste, creamy mouthfeel and light yellow color desirable to consumers. 

“Fava bean protein concentrate is a vegetal protein that in certain applications could replace animal protein as well as soy proteins,” he said. “It has shown high solubility and very good emulsifying properties. In addition, fava bean starch-rich flour is naturally high in protein and can help to boost the protein content in a wide range of baking applications.”

Beneo’s fava bean ingredients can be used in a variety of applications, including bread, soft-baked foods, biscuits and pizza crust, Mr. Gumeny added, and are well-suited for egg replacement in products like muffins.  

Chickpea protein is also appearing more in the bakery market, Ms. Schuh said, particularly in keto-friendly items and snacks, as well as pizza crusts. 

ADM offers bean and pulse proteins, as well as soy, wheat, ancient grains, nuts and seeds. It introduced a MaxFlex system of pea-with-wheat and pea-with-rice protein blends, which can be used in applications such as ADM’s high protein thin-crisp blueberry cookie concept. 

“Not only does the cookie contain our MaxFlex pea and rice blend, but we also leverage our navy bean powder for additional ingredient diversity, functionality and quality,” Ms. Schuh explained. 

This article is an excerpt from the September 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Plant-Based Protein, click here.