Way beyond whey

Whey proteins are the leaders in animal protein fortification of baked goods. But a new snack product in the marketplace shows the industry that anything is possible.

Meat Chips, Tempe, AZ, combines ground corn and white chicken meat into a seasoned gluten-free ­protein-packed chip. Stripped away are all the unnecessary fats, chemicals and extractions in the namesake chip. What’s left is 21 g protein in every 2.6-oz snack bag, according to Danny Fillmore, founder. He said that despite readily available healthy snack options, many people still gravitate toward junk food, simply because the flavor tastes great.

“I like junk food as much as the next guy; in fact, I like it so much that it’s the inspiration behind Meat Chips,” he said. “This isn’t a health food company. We’re a snack company. We focus on using real ingredients and flavors that make people crave this stuff. Our goal is to make people love us for the taste and then benefit from the ingredients.”

To get the flavor and crunch of Meat Chips just right, it took more than eight years of research and development, according to Mr. Fillmore. The chips come in four flavors: Nacho, Pepper, Ranch and Salsa.

While chicken protein may be an emerging ingredient for fortification of baked goods, whey proteins have long been the go-to choice because of their very clean flavor profiles and versatility in use. They have also been shown to provide an anabolic advantage over most other proteins in promoting muscle health because of their higher level of leucine. Specifically, whey protein isolate is about 11% leucine, making it the best source of all protein ingredients.

Davisco Foods International, Eden Prairie, MN, markets a whey protein isolate containing even more leucine —13.1%. This translates to lower usage levels in products promoted for muscle health and recovery. Made from pasteurized cheese whey by ion exchange technology, the ingredient has been successfully used in extruded breakfast cereal and cookies. A prototype gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie has been formulated to be an “excellent” source of protein.

Whey proteins are compatible with plant proteins. “We have found great success in protein-fortified cookies and baked bars using a combination product that is a blend of whey and soy proteins,” Ms. Stieve said. “This synergistic combination protein contains strong water-binding properties, which result in superior crumb structure and excellent shelf life.”

There are a number of other innovative animal proteins proving to be useful in boosting the protein of grain-based foods, including gelatin and collagen. These ingredients can be easily incorporated into baked products for the sports nutrition market.

Biscuits, cookies and crackers keep their taste appeal even fortified with high levels of protein, making them nutrient-dense yet light to carry - factors that appeal to consumers leading active lifestyles.

“Gelatin and collagen can be used in baked products intended for weight management, as well as other products intended to contribute to improved joint and bone health, even skin health,” said Felipe Chaluppe, president, Gelnex USA and Ingredients, Inc., Chicago. “With gelatin, not only is it a protein source, but it also provides functionality. It is widely used in fillings and toppings for baked goods because of its foaming and gelling properties. It produces stable fillings with unique textures and great sliceability in addition to showing good flavor properties and a melt-in-mouth sensation.”

And the truly exotic

Likely the most innovative animal protein option in the market is crickets. Yes, insects. Exo, Brooklyn, NY, markets Exo Protein Bars. The company works with domestic cricket farms that raise crickets specifically for human consumption. Harvested, cleaned crickets are dried and milled into a fine flour. The result is a slightly nutty-tasting flour that is high in protein and micronutrients. The company uses the flour to deliver 10 g protein in every 60-g bar, which is also free of dairy, soy and gluten.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to protein fortification. “Industry interest in new developments in protein-fortified healthy snacks is very high right now,” Dr. Boutte said. “With changing consumer dynamics around snacking and growing interest in protein, it is the ideal time to consider new snack formats that include protein. For bakers, it is certainly an exciting time to be looking at new opportunities in this space.”

Kathy Lund, vice-president business development and marketing at AIDP, summarized, “As the health properties of protein are better understood, the potential for growth is unlimited.”