PowerBar Clean Whey Bars
PowerBar recently launched a PowerBar Clean Whey line of protein bars and drinks.

Setting the bar higher with protein

High-protein bars may offer an opportunity for grain-based foods companies to power up their sales. Protein sourced from whey, wheat or soy may do some of the heavy lifting in new product launches.

Energy and nutrition bars eclipsed $3.4 billion in global sales in 2015, said Chris Schmidt, senior consumer health analyst, Euromonitor International, at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando, Fla., last April. The consumer base for the product category is expanding, he said, dividing the consumers into three groups. Core users are informed and highly critical. Casual users seek out trusted and familiar ingredients. Fitness lifestyle users are willing to experiment across formats, brands and ingredients.

Sports nutrition products are targeting a wider group of consumers looking to maintain an active or healthy lifestyle, said Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst, Mintel, when she spoke at Ingredient Marketplace. U.S. retail sales of performance bars reached $1,046 million in 2014, up nearly 13% from $929 million in 2012, according to Mintel.

A category leader has invested in whey protein. PowerBar, owned by Post Holdings, Inc. and based in Emeryville, Calif., recently launched a PowerBar Clean Whey line of protein bars and drinks. Each bar contains 20 grams of protein, said Nick Stiritz, senior brand manager for PowerBar, in an article in Food Business News, a sister publication of Milling & Baking News (see Aug. 23, 2016, issue of Food Business News, Page 12). Whey protein is absorbed quickly in the body, he said. Milk protein also was incorporated into the new PowerBar because milk protein is digested and absorbed in a longer time frame than whey protein, meaning milk protein provides a longer energy delivery of protein.

Whey protein is high in essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids, particularly leucine, said John Kjaer, head of sales, functional solutions, bakery at Arla Foods Ingredients, which is based in Viby, Denmark. Whey proteins stimulate muscle growth and re-generation more effectively than other protein sources, he said.

“They are easily digested and quickly absorbed by the body,” Mr. Kjaer said. “Lastly, they provide a taste advantage over some commonly consumed plant-based protein sources.”

Arla Foods Ingredients offers Nutrilac whey protein ingredients.

“Typically our solutions are based on 100% whey protein, but for some nutrition applications we also offer blends of different types of proteins,” Mr. Kjaer said. “Nevertheless, all of our solutions are based on all-natural milk components.”

MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kas., offers Optein hydrolyzed wheat proteins that are 90% protein on a dry basis. The types of protein in Optein are enzyme hydrolysis products of gliadin and glutenin that exhibit solubility in water because of their reduced molecular size, said Ody Maningat, Ph.D., vice-president of R.&D. and chief science officer for MGP Ingredients

“Nutritionally, Optein contains approximately double the concentration of glutamine (the leading amino acid in Optein) compared to soy and whey proteins,” he said. “When consumed in the form of energy or meal replacement bars, it reduces muscle soreness, aids in muscle recovery and maintains healthy blood glucose and lactate levels, especially among active individuals.”

Proline, the second leading amino acid in Optein, helps maintain healthy joints because of its role in cartilage production and repair. Optein is able to deliver 5 grams (good source) or 10 grams (excellent source) of protein per serving.

Manildra Group USA, Shawnee Mission, Kas., offers a GemPro Ultra wheat protein isolate that contains about 25% to 30% glutamine in the form of glutamine peptides. Consuming glutamine-rich proteins promotes faster recovery after exercise.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, offers isolated soy proteins with minimum protein levels of 90% on a moisture-free basis.

Soy protein is a complete protein in that it contains all essential amino acids at the levels required, said Tasha Hermes, a senior scientist for Minneapolis-based Cargill. Soy proteins offer versatile functionality and a complete nutritional profile, and they are among the most cost-friendly proteins on the market, said Amanda Donohue-Hansen, business development manager for Cargill. However, they also may bring allergen issues, and many soybeans are bioengineered/G.M.O.