A Garden of Plant Proteins

Protein is the “it” ingredient. At first dominated by animal proteins, the protein ingredient category has seen a shift toward plant-based options. Plant-based product claims increased by 62% globally (CAGR, 2013–2017), with plant proteins being one of a few plant-based ingredient categories contributing to this growth (Innova 2018).


“More and more consumers, especially Millennials, are seeking plant-based protein sources as an alternative to animal proteins in a variety of foods and drinks,” says Ashly Koenig, marketing manager at ADM. “This has contributed to vegetarian and vegan foods becoming more mainstream both on the shelf and in full- and quickservice restaurants. Through ADM’s proprietary primary consumer research, we’ve found that nearly 50% of consumers are interested in substituting animal proteins with plant-based proteins at least some of the time.”

The seed has been planted, and now plant-based proteins have germinated into significant players in the food industry, as they address many of the trends shaping what we eat and drink. “They are perceived as natural, label-friendly, and sustainable —all critical points for discerning shoppers,” says Matthew Jacobs, global product line leader of plant proteins at Cargill. Since consumers are familiar with the protein sources, they are more confident feeding products made with them to their families, he adds.


Manufacturers can choose from a variety of plant-based proteins, including soy, pea, rice, and pulses. Each has specific functions and unique nutrient make-ups. They’re used in products like sports beverages and bars where one would expect to find protein ingredients. But consumers will also find the ingredients in pasta, soups, bakery, meat analogs, cereal, and extruded snacks. “Plant proteins are a popular choice for nutrition bars and dairy alternative beverages, and we also see them gaining traction in the bakery and dairy segments,” says Melissa Machen, senior technical services specialist of plant protein at Cargill. “According to data from Innova Market Insights, bakery has been the most active segment for plant-based protein products in the last decade, making up 40% of global plant-based protein launches.” Plant protein ingredients are also trending in dairy applications like ice cream, yogurt, processed cheese, and more, she adds.


Oftentimes, ingredient manufacturers collaborate with their customers to choose the best plant protein for an application. Cargill, for example, uses a guide to help food producers make the determinations. While it varies by applications, Cargill typically begins by gaining an understanding of the claims, i.e., protein, non-genetically modified, organic, or natural, that its customers plan to make, as each of these affect ingredient choices, explains Christine Addington, senior technical service specialist at Cargill. Next, processing conditions and qualities like texture, viscosity, and shelf life are considered. “Once we understand all the product development parameters, we can identify the protein—or protein blend—that will work best.”


The positioning of plant protein ingredients and the food and beverage products in which they are used depends on the target consumer’s needs, says Koenig. ADM’s market research categorizes consumers into several distinct groups. “Our proprietary primary consumer research has shown that there is a different set of priorities for a Flexible Protein Enthusiast compared to the Plant-Forward Protein Seeker and Plant- Based Purists. For example, the Flexible Protein Enthusiast, who eats all types of protein, is seeking products that have a similar taste and texture to animal proteins. However, when we take a look at Plant-Forward Protein Seekers and Plant- Based Purists, who limit their protein intake to plants with only a few exceptions, we see that they are seeking a variety of nutrients to obtain a balanced diet.” Consumers in either of these two categories also prefer the taste and texture of plant-based proteins, she adds.


Ingredient manufacturers that supply the food industry with plant protein ingrédients are excited about the future for this category, especially as more consumers adopt plant-based eating habits. “We see the plant-based protein space as one of sustained growth because of the variety of contributing factors behind its appeal,” says Jacobs. “In addition, the market will continue to grow because the consumer behavior toward incorporating more plant-based protein into daily routines requires only incremental adjustments, not significant all-or-nothing lifestyle changes that would be shortlived. There are multiple new plant sources that will fuel growth in this category. Those that have the most functional versatility across multiple applications—and at a reasonable cost in use—will be the winners.”


Pulse Proteins Evolve

Pulses such as chickpea, lentil, pea, and faba bean (and more) are consumed as whole foods by many people around the world and are enjoyed for their variety of flavors and textures, high nutrient content, and ease of preparation. They are also sources of protein ingredients like powders and concentrates that give food manufacturers clean label options to enhance the protein content of food products and improve qualities like texture and shelf life. “Pulse proteins can play an interesting role because they deliver on almost every consumer trend—they’re non- GMO, gluten-free, and high in plant-based protein, fiber, and many other important nutrients such as potassium and iron. They also carry a strong sustainability story,” says Koenig.


Pulse protein functionality varies by the type of pulse and how they are processed from whole pulse to the finished ingredient, says Julie Mann, global protein program manager at Ingredion. “For example, pea proteins provide excellent water- and oilholding capabilities, and typically are challenged to provide strong gelling attributes. Emulsification capacity is another advantage of pulse proteins.” The oil- and waterbinding quality and emulsification property make pulses an advantageous ingredient choice for many food and beverage applications, including bakery, nutritional and snack bars, smoothies, ready meals, savory snacks, and pet food, she says.


Pulse protein ingredients have similar functional characteristics of animal proteins in various applications—a benefit for food and beverage developers formulating with these ingredients, says Russ Egbert, director of protein research at ADM. ADM’s line of pulse ingredients includes a range of whole beans and bean-based ingrédients like flour, grits, meal, and powder, and pea and lentil ingredients like flour and grits. One of the up-and-coming pulse ingredients is the pea. “In the last five years, the volume of pea protein production has increased by 70% to meet growing consumer demand,” says Koeing. To keep up with this demand, ADM is building its own pea processing plant in North Dakota.


Many of the pulse protein ingredients work well in combination with other plant proteins, especially if boosting the nutritional profile of the food or beverage product is the goal. “Combining nutrient-rich pulses such as pea, lentil, or chickpea pulses with other protein plant sources like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, or barley is an increasingly common approach to boost the protein content of food applications to get a more complete protein profile,” says Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager of nutrition and pet food at Ingredion. “Chickpeas, for example, are described as beany or nut-like, while amaranth is earthy or peppery. Pairing these two in a low-moisture food, such as a baked savory snack, can offer a unique pretzellike taste.”


Some pulse proteins have a higher nutritional protein quality than other types of plant-based proteins, making them attractive to health-conscious consumers who want functional products, says Koenig. “This is especially important for Plant-Based Purist consumers who only obtain their proteins from plants.”


Formulating with pulse protein ingredients lets manufacturers appeal to healthconscious consumers looking for “purposeful proteins” that provide important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals, says Koeing. “They also play an important role in global eating experiences and deliver nutrition in creative platforms with an added feel-good benefit due to their environmental advantages.”


Water conservation is a concern for both consumers and food processors. Consumers, particularly Plant-Forward Protein Seekers and Plant-Based Purists, are concerned about the environment and the long-term impact of society’s eating habits, says Koenig. At the same time, food manufacturers are looking into water conservation strategies as parts of the world endure severe droughts, says Luchsinger. “Pulses are some of the most water-efficient foods grown, requiring only 43 gallons of water per pound of crop. Compare this to the gallons needed for animal sources of protein; for example, when 43 gallons/lbs of water are needed for a plant protein ingredient versus 756 gallons/lbs for pork, people understand that plant protein sources are ‘better’ for the environment as well as good for the consumer.”


The sustainability story, environmental friendliness, clean label, and healthful perception of plant proteins continue to pique the interest of consumers, says Kristen Germana, senior marketing manager of nutrition at Ingredion. Pulse proteins fit this bill. “Pulse proteins deliver exceptional value from function to label presence,” says Germana. “Harnessing this value proposition and the breadth and multitude of benefits—nutritional, organoleptic, and functionality—is key to promotion.” Ingredion’s pulse protein ingredient range features pulse flours, concentrates, and isolates, each offering its own nutritional profile that can consist of protein, fiber, and micronutrients; functionalities; and sustainability story desirable to consumers, adds Germana. Ingredion’s HOMECRAFT Pulse flours enrich gluten-free baked products with protein, enhance the crispiness in cereals and snacks, improve the texture and color in batters and breadings, and add taste and color diversification in bakery, pasta, snacks, and cereals. Its VITESSENCE Pulse proteins, which include yellow lentil, yellow pea, and faba bean protein concentrates, boost the protein content of food products, are an alternative to animal protein ingredients, and contribute a smooth texture in certain applications.


Next-Generation Pea Protein

DuPont Nutrition & Health recently expanded its range of pea protein ingrédients with the debut of TRUPRO 2000 Pea Protein at the 2018 SupplySide West show held in November. When pea protein ingredients first came online, they often had taste and texture issues associated with them that had to be combined with flavor maskers and texturizers. To develop an ingredient that overcame this, the scientists at DuPont Nutrition & Health drew upon their knowledge and expertise in soy protein to create a more functional and better-tasting pea protein, explains Rosa Sanchez, beverage application group manager.


They started with sensory science to help them understand the sensory qualities of current pea protein ingredients and to identify specific flavor attributes that, if modified, were likely to drive better results, she says. First, they tested prototype ingredients in beverage formulations, validating their flavor and mouthfeel performance. From there, the successful formulations were subjected to consumer sensory testing to determine the most optimal mouthfeel and flavor.


TRUPRO 2000 Pea Protein is designed for use in high-protein dry blended and ready-to-drink beverage formulations. It is a free-flowing powder that is 83% protein (dry basis), light tan in color, and derived from North American yellow peas. Like other plant-based protein ingredients, TRUPRO 2000 Pea Protein meets the growing global consumer interest in alternatives to animal protein. “Consumers already following an established high plant protein diet, as well as those who have traditionally relied on higher animal protein consumption, are all part of this growing trend,” says Sanchez. “While there are younger concentrations of consumers using plant-based foods at an increasing rate, this is not exclusively a youth market, and trial among these new consumers is turning into high adoption.”


For food manufacturers, pea protein ingredients offer some advantages to their product development efforts, such as the fact that they are non-genetically modified and do not have to be labeled as allergens, says Sanchez. “Next to soy protein, it is the most widely available plant protein that shows the greatest promise to deliver desired functionality and flavor performance across a range of applications.” The protein quality of pea protein is lower than soy protein but combining it with other plant proteins (something that is often done when formulating with pea protein) will lead to a higher protein quality score and acceptable flavor outcomes, she adds. “Positioning is typically centered on ‘plant-based protein’, which is appealing to consumers and a key driver of consumer interest and trial.”


Protein Concentrate With Improved Taste

The demand for plant proteins is increasing, and ingredient manufacturers need to step up the development efforts to keep up as the demand is expected to increase even more. “Industry estimates put plant-based protein sales at $5 billion by 2020, and we will probably exceed that based on current trends,” says Steve Fink, director of marketing at PLT Health Solutions. One study by Lux Research that he points to suggests that plant-based sources could represent one-third of overall protein by 2054. Another study he mentions—this one conducted by Nielsen for the Plant- Based Foods Association—reported that sales of plant-based foods topped $3.3 billion. “Plant-based foods grew 250% over 2017, and when you set this growth against all foods sold—which was just 2%—it shows just how dramatic this move is.”


Like the other experts, Fink points to trends in healthier eating, including cutting back on meat and incorporating more plant-based foods into diets, as contributing to this growth. Making healthier food choices is popular across all demographics, but it is particularly popular with older consumers, whereas social and environmental factors are more important to younger consumers, he says. “At PLT, we like to say that our Artesa Chickpea Protein is ‘better for people and better for the planet,’ which sums up the contributors to growth in this category.”


PLT Health Solutions launched Artesa Chickpea Protein at IFT18 as the first chickpea-based protein concentrate available in commercial quantities, says Fink. “PLT partner Nutriati LLC re-engineered the manufacturing process for Artesa to address some of the main ‘pain points’ related to formulating with plant proteins— starting with ingredient taste and overall in-product sensory experience.” Consumer testing has shown that Artesa Chickpea Protein has a comparable sensory and formulating experience to dairy proteins in terms of taste, texture, product structure, and mouthfeel, he explains. The very small, uniform particle size of the ingredient is responsible for its functional benefits like enhanced dissolution and suspendability, excellent foaming and emulsifying properties, and faster, easier processing with less waste.


The Artesa Chickpea Protein ingredient is versatile, showing up in different types of products and product concepts that PLT Health Solutions and Nutriati have worked on with customers. A producer of artisanal gluten-free bread improved the texture, air cell structure, and moisture content of frozen gluten-free bread while eliminating soy lecithin by using Artesa Chickpea Protein, and a contract baker avoided a costly retrofit for a high-protein cookie line by replacing its high-viscosity pea protein/gluten-free flour with Artesa Chickpea Protein and Artesa Chickpea Flour, says Fink. Another example of the successful use of the ingredient in a bakery application comes from the manufacturer of high-protein brownies. The original formulation produced a batter that was very sticky, making sheeting and cutting difficult. Formulating with Artesa Chickpea Protein, which has high water-binding capacity, reduced the viscosity of the batter and improved the product quality, says Fink.


Beverages and snack food products also get a boost from the inclusion of Artesa Chickpea Protein. Fink points out that the small, uniform particle size and high water-binding capacity of the ingredient helped one beverage manufacturer eliminate the sedimentation in a low-pH beverage and helped another beverage manufacturer improve the mouthfeel and reduce grittiness in a fortified juice beverage. The neutral taste of the ingredient is a plus to snack food manufacturers, allowing them to formulate different types of snack products without the use of flavors or flavormasking ingrédients.


Almond Protein Powder

Nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts, are nutritional powerhouses boasting fiber, micronutrients, and protein. They are available in different forms—whole, diced, flour, butter, liquid, and more—for use by food and beverage manufacturers to serve a variety of functions and to provide nutrients. Manufacturers are increasingly using almonds. The almond is the No. 1 nut used in new products in the top five categories (confectionery, snacks, bakery, bars, and cereal), and 48% of product introductions with nuts contain almonds, according to the Innova Market Insights 2017 Global New Product Introductions Report as cited by Harbinder Maan, associate director of trade marketing and stewardship for the Almond Board of California. “One serving of almonds, which is one ounce or 23 almonds, includes six grams of plant-based protein, providing on-the-go fuel for consumers and endless innovation potential for product developers.”


Almond butter functions as a filler and binder in snacks and bars while almond flour and almond meal replace other flours in bakery products promoted as gluten-free or paleo diet friendly, says Maan. Consumers want tasty and flavorful food products, and more of them want products that are nutrient dense as well. “Almonds, in all their forms, are being used in new and innovative ways to meet demands of the current and next generation of consumers,” says Maan. “We’re increasingly seeing almond butter and almond milk used in plant-based products, such as almond milk smoothies marketed as a functional food, or in pressed bars that offer consumers an on-the-go plant-based snack. When it comes to culinary applications, there are endless opportunities for almonds in plant-based recipes—be it a blended burger or a breakfast bowl, almonds are fitting as a center-of-the-plate protein.”


The taste and texture of food and beverage products can drive sales and generate repeat customers. When formulating products, manufacturers must consider the flavors that ingredients may impart to the finished products and how ingrédients affect the overall texture. “Research shows that the most important differentiator for consumers with regard to protein isn’t the type, but the taste,” says Jeff Smith, director of marketing for Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division. “Many protein sources, especially plant-based sources like soy or pea protein, have a gritty texture and an unappealing aftertaste that require the use of masking agents, which can discourage consumers who are looking for a clean label.”


Blue Diamond Almond Protein Powder, one of the newest ingredients from Blue Diamond Almonds, has a fine particle size that makes it easy to blend and a mild flavor that does not require masking, which Smith says are “important differentiators from other plantbased proteins and ones that R&D teams will find appealing as they look to formulate new products.”


Specialty protein-based beverages are formulated with many types of ingredients— protein included—that can present formulation challenges. This type of product is an example of one that can successfully incorporate almond protein powder. “Almond protein is perfect for individual foodservice operations making smoothies on demand, as well as large-scale manufacturers of ready-to-drink smoothies, shakes, and bars who are looking for a protein ingredient delivering a smooth texture and clean, subtle flavor,” says Smith.


Almonds and almond ingredients are protein sources for use in bars, bakery, and snacks, but the popularity of plant-based proteins in general has provided more opportunities for almond ingredients. “Probably the most important is leveraging the superfood potential of almonds in a protein powder form, which allows manufacturers to capitalize on the latest consumer trends in providing an alternate, nutrient-dense and clean-tasting plant-based protein source,” says Smith. In addition to being rich in protein, Blue Diamond Almond Protein Powder has fiber, potassium, and other nutrients like magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, and copper.


“Furthermore, the healthy halo that consumers associate with almonds can be an effective marketing tool to increase consumers’ purchase intent,” explains Smith. “In a Brandology survey of consumer protein preferences, consumer purchase intent for almond protein was 2.5 times higher than that of whey, soy, or pea proteins. Product developers know that almonds on the label will help them achieve their sales goals for products positioned as protein-rich and plant-based.”


Protein-Packed Plant Powder

A plant called Lemnoideae, also known as the water lentil because it resembles a small green lentil, is rich in protein and the source for a plantbased protein powder, LENTEIN Complete. Parabel USA produces the powder, which it claims is a source of high levels of essential amino acids, branched-chain amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. LENTEIN Complete disperses well in beverages, and its vibrant green color remains stable in a range of temperatures, making it a popular choice for formulating pasta, snacks, and noodles, says Cecilia Wittbjer, vice president of marketing at Parabel USA. It can also be formulated into chips, crackers, bars, and cereal clusters. What’s more, the ingredient is not genetically modified and is free from lactose, gluten, dairy, egg, and soy.


When promoting the ingredient, the company has a sustainability story to tell. “Apart from nutrition and functionality, sustainability is a large reason for choosing water lentils over other proteins, especially animal proteins,” she says. “The water lentils are doubling in mass every day, so the crop is harvested every day. It’s the most productive crop on earth.” The company grows the plants using a proprietary growth system in hydroponic ponds in Florida. “The water in the system is recycled by 98%, and there is no leakage of nutrients into nearby areas,” explains Wittbjer. “In Florida where our first farms are built, the trans-evaporation is equal to precipitation, which means that the crop could be considered water neutral. We don’t need arable land for our farms, so that adds to the sustainability.”


Parabel currently produces 300 tons of LENTEIN Complete a year. A new farm that is scheduled to open in May 2019 will be able to produce 3,000 tons, says Wittbjer.


What’s on the Horizon for Plant Proteins

As the demand for plant proteins continues to grow, ingredient manufacturers are looking to new sources and ways to improve functionality and other qualities of plant protein ingredients. One improvement will come in the form of plant protein ingredients that are neutral flavored and have higher concentrations of protein, according to Axiom Foods, which predicts this as a trend for 2019 and beyond (Ray and Full 2018). The authors of a trend report explain: “While some plant proteins like lupin, cranberry, and hemp are only available in 30%–60% protein concentration, today, Axiom is leading with technologies that bring the highest industry-wide protein concentration of organic brown rice and organic peas to the table: up to 90%.” The higher protein concentration levels mean that formulators will get a high-quality protein source, be able to use less of it, and have better control over the protein content of a formulation, they write.


There’s also work being done to develop neutral-tasting hemp and pea protein ingredients, which traditionally can have strong musty and green flavors. To address this, Axiom Foods launched Cannatein Plus hemp protein that the company claims is “virtually taste and color free,” and VegOtein N, an 80% neutral taste pea protein.


Mustard Seeds as Protein Source

While mustard seeds are most commonly used to produce the flavorful, spicy condiment, components of the seeds like protein present functional benefits across a range of food and beverage products. The Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission is spreading the word about the mustard protein ingredients via its “Spread the Mustard” promotional campaign.


Defatted mustard flours and meals go through extraction, concentration, and purification processes to produce various mixtures of soluble and insoluble mustard protein concentrates, isolates, and enriched protein fractions, according to the commission. The processes can be modified to remove compounds that contribute dark color and undesirable organoleptic properties. Mustard protein concentrates and isolates are said to bind fat and water, gel, and stabilize emulsions and function as a replacement for gluten, casein, and soy protein. They can be used at 2% in processed meat applications and at 1% in bakery products, nutritional bars, soups, beverages, and infant formulas. Other products in which mustard protein concentrates and isolates function are meat emulsions, carbonated beverages, and pasta products.


Replace Starches With Lentil Flour

A new high-protein functional flour made from lentils is available as a replacement for modified starches. Bunge North America recently added the lentil flour to its lineup of clean label ingredients. The lentil flour is made from lentils that are not genetically modified, water, and heat, which means that the ingredient can be listed as “lentil flour” on ingredient labels, according to the company. Bunge also promotes the ingredient as a “functionally equivalent substitute for modified starches.” The lentil flour has a neutral flavor profile, making it useful in both sweet and savory product formulations.



Source : Karen Nachay | January 2019, Volume 73, No.1 / Institute of Food Technologists ;  www.ift.org


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