Protein in beverages, plant protein, beverage innovation
Manufacturers may create blends of plant-based proteins to achieve a neutral flavor base.

Blending a base

Creating blends of plant-based proteins “to achieve a neutral-flavored base to build upon” is often the goal at Imbibe all the while “still delivering the desired amount of protein for a label claim,” Ms. Watkins said.

Also in agreement that pea protein will “definitely continue to grow,” Ms. Connelly believes more blends will be developed such as pea with rice.

“Cereals such as rice (and other grains) tend to pair well with legumes or beans; they tend to complement each other in their amino acid composition,” she said.

Acknowledging that flavor and texture are issues that have to be addressed at the outset, Ms. Connelly raised the point that they actually tend to become more significant issues over time.

“To address the issue, you have to look at the whole formulation: What can you change to offset or mask any off flavors?” she said. “Since there are differences among different suppliers, the challenge is to find the best tasting source of that protein.”

In Ms. Connelly’s mind, “that protein” with great beverage potential may be algae. While HP Hood does not currently include algae as an ingredient in any of its products, Ms. Connelly said:

“I’ve gotten to play around with it; it’s very smooth and creamy with no gritty feel and it performs very nicely in beverages. As sustainability concerns grow, these microorganisms will have a greater role to play in the diet.”

Also looking down the protein beverage road, Ms. Watkins doesn’t expect to see new sources of protein hitting the market any time soon — that is, beyond milk protein, whey, casein, pea, soy and rice proteins — “because of the technically challenging nature of formulating with protein.”

However, driven by the growing interest in plant-based beverages — “and the not infrequent sensitivities and allergies to pea and soy” — experimentation with other sources and formulations will continue, she said.