This article originally ran in the September 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.
Dairy and its derived protein ingredients continue to gain recognition for their inherent nutritional and functional benefits. Consumers are becoming more aware of the health benefits associated with a diet rich in dairy, thanks in part to the rise in popularity of protein-enriched foods and beverages. From a manufacturer’s point of view, dairy ingredients boost nutrition while enhancing functionality in products, helping to overcome formulation challenges. Therefore, fortifying products with nutritional and functional dairy ingredients is a growing trend in food manufacturing.
Tapping into trends
Over 54 percent of consumers are trying to increase the amount of protein in their diet compared to a year ago, and 47 percent indicate that the message “good source of protein” is important on labels. Formulators are responding to this trend by developing protein systems that can go into a wide variety of applications. Different protein systems aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive anymore. Increasing numbers of manufacturers are including vegetable and grain-based proteins with whey or milk proteins to provide beverages and nutritional bars with a good source or excellent source of protein. Various vegetable- and grain-based proteins are being developing to be used in beverage applications or provide specific textures in nutritional bars and food products.
Consumer demand remains high for fortified dairy products that taste great while delivering desired functional and nutritional benefits. Greek yogurt, for example, has had rapid growth over the past five years and enjoys great success in part because of the taste, texture and additional protein that Greek yogurt delivers. Protein now appeals to a wider audience than just the body building market. However, as protein fortification becomes more mainstream, manufacturers have to work hard to deliver pleasing organoleptic properties for the consumer palate. Fortified frozen yogurt, and in particular, frozen Greek yogurt, is a key example of how manufacturers are fortifying with nutritional ingredients to create innovative products. Frozen yogurt is a popular choice for those looking for a low fat, nutrient-rich alternative to ice cream. Milk protein concentrates, such as OptiSol™ 1030, are designed specifically for frozen yogurt applications to be highly soluble and offer manufacturers better cost-in-use systems and a simpler formulation process.
Another key consumer trend that is emerging is "add in and take out," or "food minus and food plus," which aims to boost the nutritional content of food and remove any ingredients deemed unhealthy. This is due, in part, to increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of dairy and advances in food technology allowing manufacturers to experiment with formulations and fortification options. For example, protein can be used to partially replace simple sugars in chewy granola bars providing a 25–50 percent reduction in sugar and giving a slight increase in protein content. Optisol 2000, a protein binding solution for reducing sugar use in applications, was awarded one of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Innovation Awards this year at IFT in Las Vegas for being able to reduce sugars, improve nutrition and maintain texture in granola bar applications.
Another trend is clean label. Consumers want to recognize the ingredients that they consume. A shorter ingredient list is desirable but it shouldn’t compromise taste, texture and flavor. Protein systems are being developed that can replace ingredients that are less desirable and provide a cleaner label with a shorter ingredient declaration.
Research in the Journal of Nutrition has highlighted the role of branched chain amino acids, present in protein, and in particular leucine, in supporting muscle growth and development. However, taking the case of beverages, adding only amino acids in the past has been difficult as it can be challenging to solubilize a hydrophobic amino acid and produce a smooth tasting and homogeneous product. The new technology known as PepForm has been designed to deliver specific amino acid combinations in a soluble form. PepForm uses a patent pending process to link leucine or other amino acids to peptides and proteins. This process provides a protein and amino acid solution that is soluble, much easier to work with in applications and is highly bioavailable.
Bars have often presented similar challenges to manufacturers wishing to formulate with high protein, as it can have adverse effects on taste and texture. Protein systems have been designed to provide a softer texture with longer shelf life. One texture that has been hard to achieve is a whipped nougat texture. Recent research has resulted in the development of BarPro 585, a milk protein system that provides increased protein in a nougat texture. Additionally, recent developments now allow chocolate coatings to be fortified with protein and deliver additional protein in nutritional bar coatings. Protein systems can be developed to deliver the texture, structure and nutrition that meet current market trends and consumer demand.