Options and functionality

There’s a wide variety of animal and plant protein sources that bakers can choose from. They differ in key characteristics, including functionality, flavor and price. To get the best boost without impacting product quality, oftentimes a combination of proteins make the best sense.

Indeed, impact on finished product quality must be carefully considered because many proteins are not added invisibly to baked goods. For example, certain proteins function as emulsifiers, whereas others impact structure and texture. Some contribute color or opacity. Others will provide additional nutrients and, depending on the application, can be an added bonus or can have a deleterious effect on the finished product.

Another growing consideration is sustainability. While animal proteins have historically been considered the gold standard in protein quality, there is now much greater interest in plant protein sources because of their more sustainable attributes. In fact, plant protein production has been shown to offer a lower environmental impact compared with animal protein production by reducing energy consumption, emissions, land usage and water usage. Producers must feed plant protein to animals to produce animal proteins, and animals are not necessarily the most efficient converters of the proteins they consume. Further, because many baked goods can be readily formulated to a vegetarian or vegan format, plant proteins make sense from a product positioning perspective.

The high protein content of beans sparked many product introduction in the past few years.

Plant protein power

Soy remains the most common plant protein source, but other sources are quickly gaining acceptance by bakers and consumers. In the past year, pea protein has proven to be quite versatile in various applications.

“Addition of soy protein makes sense in any baked product where specific protein requirements must be met,” Dr. Boutte said. DuPont supplies a complete line of isolated soy protein products including powdered, agglomerated powders, nuggets, flakes and textured proteins.

“The impact of soy protein on flavor and texture is important to consider,” Dr. Boutte advised. “This can be very different from formula to formula. We understand certain factors that influence texture and flavor, but some trial and error is usually required for best results. The moisture content, pH and sweetness of a product will all partially determine the protein to use.”

Soy proteins are often blended together to achieve the best texture, flavor, shelf life and, of course, protein requirements, according to Dr. Boutte. “Use of other ingredients, such as flavors, emulsifiers, hydrocolloids and enzymes, often helps,” he said.

AIDP, City of Industry, CA, markets a number of plant-based proteins including a sprouted brown rice protein that has recently become available in a certified-organic form. This ingredient addresses numerous issues including continually rising costs of other protein sources, a growing vegan market and rising awareness of whey, soy protein and other foods that lead to allergies and sensitivities.

Sprouting enhances the protein’s nutritional benefits, among others, over conventional rice protein, according to AIDP. And studies have shown that rice protein has similar muscle-building capabilities as whey protein.

The company also offers a proprietary blend of rice and pea protein that delivers a complete protein profile by boosting the low lysine level typical of rice-only protein. “We have been busy developing and expanding our collection of rice and pea proteins, each grade with unique characteristics for different formulation needs,” said Alan Rillorta, director, branded ingredient sales at AIDP. “Various colors, flavor profiles and textures are available.”

Edible bean powders from ADM Wild Flavors & Specialty Ingredients, Decatur, IL, can be used to increase not only the protein content of baked goods but also the fiber content.

“Edible bean powders that work well in baking applications are navy, pinto, black and chickpea,” said Cheryl Borders, manager, soy food applications, technical service, edible beans, ADM. “They are available as whole, pieces, grits and powders. Navy bean powder is the preferred choice when added color is not desired. In extruded snacks, 100% bean powder can be used to replace the cereal and starch ingredients.”

Stabilized rice bran is an ingredient that provides protein and fiber, as well as the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. It’s also an inherent source of essential vitamins and minerals.

“Bran is about 10% by weight of the rice kernel,” said Mark McKnight, senior vice-president, marketing and sales, RiceBran Technologies, Scottsdale, AZ. “This is also where 80% of the nutrition resides. We’ve patented a process to stabilize the bran to prevent it from oxidizing and, thereby, are able to provide an ingredient loaded with many nutrients lacking in today’s diet.”

The stabilized rice bran can be used as-is in baked good formulations. “Another option is a unique high-protein and high-dietary-fiber crisp extruded from our patented rice protein ingredients,” Mr. McKnight said. The crisps are 10% protein and 10% dietary fiber by weight.

Flax protein and chia protein are also a natural fit for bakery. Both these seeds are consumer-recognized ingredients in this category, according to Marilyn Stieve, business development manager, bars, Glanbia Nutritionals Ingredient Technologies, Fitchburg, WI.

An emerging vegan protein source is microalgae. “Our whole algal protein ingredient has a protected cell wall that limits its interaction with other ingredients, making it a versatile ingredient for a number of formulations, including breads, cereals, crackers, muffins and more,” said Sally Aaron, marketing director, Solazyme Microalgae Food Ingredients, South San Francisco, CA. “This protein also minimizes the impact on textural characteristics, due to low water binding and very low viscosity in solutions, allowing high protein content without thickening.”

As a complete cell, the whole microalgal protein supplies multiple micronutrients in addition to protein. “It delivers all essential amino acids and boosts dietary fiber,” Ms. Aaron said. “It can be used as a sole source or in combination with other proteins.”

The company also markets whole algal flour that can be used to replace dairy fats and eggs in baked goods. “By using both ingredients, formulators can create vegan baked goods while boosting protein and maintaining great taste and texture,” Ms. Aaron said.