Marketing opportunities may come through protein additions sourced from peas, beans or soy.

New product launches for items that pack in plant protein have picked up in the grain-based foods industry, particularly for ready-to-eat cereal. Soy protein still ranks as a top option for adding plant protein while peas, as well as beans, increasingly are being used as a protein source.

The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., has plant protein plans for its Kashi brand, not only in cereal but also snacks and bars. Recently launched Kashi GoLean Clusters Vanilla Pepita Cereal contains 9 grams of protein per serving, including protein from rolled red beans and pea crisps.

Power O’s Cereal from Love Grown Foods, Denver, contains navy beans, garbanzo beans and lentils. Depending on the variety, Power O’s cereal offers 2 to 6 grams of protein and 1 to 3 grams of fiber per serving. Maddy Hasulak, 29, and her husband Alex Hasulak, 29, founded Love Grown Foods. Forbes featured the Hasulaks in an article that appeared on-line Jan. 4 with the headline: “30 Under 30: Meet The Tastemakers Who Are Redefining Food And Drink In 2016.”

Altering cereal to boost protein content comes with considerations.

Everybody expects the same crunch and the same taste in the cereals they grew up eating, said Tyler Lorenzen, president of the protein and ingredients division for World Food Processing, Oskaloosa, Iowa. A product with added plant protein should meet those expectations. World Food Processing has developed a pea protein under its Puris brand that may be extruded and works well in the cereal manufacturing process.

Kellogg's new Kashi GoLean Clusters Vanilla Pepita Cereal contains protein from rolled red beans and pea crisps.

Pea protein also may work in bars.

“You’re seeing bars that have 10 grams of protein per serving pretty consistently now,” Mr. Lorenzen said.

World Food Processing also offers soy protein ingredients, but pea proteins are drawing more interest from grain-based foods companies, he said.

“On the functionality side it’s a wash for us (between soy protein and pea protein), but at the same time if there is a marketing reason to use one or the other, absolutely you see a shift toward pea protein,” he said.

Peas are readily available, non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. and free of hexane, he said. World Food Processing offers both pea protein and soy protein as non-bioengineered.

“But it’s widely communicated on the G.M.O. vs. non-G.M.O. debate that most soybeans and most soy products are largely G.M.O.,” he said. “So training the consumer to think differently has been difficult.”

PGP International, based in Woodland, Calif., and part of ABF Ingredients, produces a high-protein crisp that is free of hexane and allergens. Potential applications include cereals, energy bars, nutrition-rich food, snacks and confections.

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., has become more involved in pulses since entering a distribution agreement with AGT Food and Ingredients, Regina, Sask., a leader in pulse ingredient sourcing, processing and distribution. Ingredion now offers such ingredients as Homecraft pulse flour and Vitessence pulse protein-based products.

“They (pulses) actually have a high protein content,” said Jim Zallie, executive vice-president, global specialties, and president, Americas, for Ingredion, on Feb. 18 at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Fla. “They are non-genetically modified in a unique carbohydrate profile oftentimes with, again, a fiber factor.”

Ingredion is developing value-added pulse-based products.

Grain-based foods companies are showing more interest in protein sourced from peas.

“Think of the chickpeas and hummus, fava beans and yellow pea — these are just examples of the products we are actually formulating,” Mr. Zallie said. “Tremendous consumer interest, customer interest, and we have new wins in the area of snacks and pasta that would be formulated with these products.”

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, is expanding its capabilities in soy protein. The company on Feb. 2 said it had agreed to purchase a
controlling stake in Harvest Innovations, a supplier of minimally processed, expeller-pressed soy proteins, oils and gluten-free ingredients. Harvest Innovations, based in Indianola, Iowa, has a second processing facility in Deshler, Ohio. The company’s products range from non-bioengineered soy chips, expeller-pressed soy flour and textured vegetable protein to organic soy crisps and gluten-free flours and pastas.

DuPont Nutrition & Health offers Supro soy protein isolates and Supro soy protein nuggets for use in cereal, nutrition bars and snacks.

Wheat also may be a protein source. MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kas., offers an Arise brand of wheat protein isolates that work in a range of food products. They have been shown to improve dough development and processing tolerance and to increase finished product volume and dough extensibility.

One other plant protein source, algae, is now available for use. The Food and Drug Administration in January 2015 said it had “no questions” about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of AlgaVia whole algal protein from Solazyme, Inc., San Francisco, for its use as an ingredient in food and beverage products.

AlgaVia whole algae protein may boost levels of protein, dietary fiber, healthy lipids and micronutrients in ready-to-eat cereal, said Mark Brooks, senior vice-president of Solazyme Food Ingredients.

“AlgaVia whole algae protein can be added to a wide variety of grain-based food applications, including crackers and snacks, baked goods such as bread and muffins, and more,” Mr. Brooks said. “When added to a basic cheese cracker, AlgaVia whole algae protein can provide double the amount of fiber and protein that is typically found in an average cracker.”

AlgaVia is 63% protein and also contains fiber, lipids and micronutrients, he said.

“This is a unique combination of a protein that has a complete amino acid profile, is highly digestible and doesn’t interact with other ingredients in a formulation,” Mr. Brooks said. “This protected protein can deliver exceptional nutritional value when added to baked goods and snacks, without impacting the taste and texture that consumers love.”

Factoring in flavor

Formulators still may have one important question about plant protein: What about off tastes, such as beany notes associated with soy?

“AlgaVia whole algae protein has a light flavor that won’t compete with the flavors of other ingredients in formulation,” Mr. Brooks said. “Because whole algae protein is a whole food ingredient protected inside the natural microalgae cell wall, it has limited interaction with other food ingredients, eliminating the gritty texture often found in other fortified products.”

High levels of protein may be achieved in nutrition bars.

Recent transactions involving flavor companies may help ADM assist formulators in developing finished foods with high levels of protein and good taste. The company acquired Wild Flavors GmbH in 2014 and agreed to acquire Eatem Foods Co. in 2015.

“The acquisition of Eatem Foods gives us access to a wider range of savory flavors that are important components in products like soup, sauces and snacks,” said Jackie Anderson, a spokesperson for ADM. “Combined with the taste modification technology we also have from Wild Flavors, ADM now has a full portfolio of flavors to help consumers find the right solution to add protein without compromising the flavor or texture of the finished product.”

World Food Processing considers taste when growing its own peas and soybeans, Mr. Lorenzen said. The company has developed natural breeding methods not only to increase nutritional benefits but also to make food taste better. The company may try to find a soybean or a pea that is maybe lighter in color or tastes more like a peanut.

“It’s just interesting to see how people continue to innovate, continue to look at different delivery methods, whether it be a protein bar or in a cup where you just add water and microwave,” Mr. Lorenzen said. “People are really getting creative, and it’s exciting because it’s enabling a bunch of people to eat healthier foods and live a healthier way of life and not jeopardizing anything when it comes to great taste. That’s exciting from our side.”