By Joanna Cosgrove
Satisfying the demand for good taste and nutritional
Last year’s Atkins
boom may have put a vise grip on the sales of some carbohydrate-laden
beverages, but one of the lasting upshots is that consumers have become
more knowledgeable about protein and its role in a healthy diet. This new
understanding has had a profound effect,
stimulating consumer interest and demand for healthier beverages that are
fortified with protein.
The two most popular beverage proteins are whey and
soy, and their various isolate derivatives. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, eating
foods rich with soy can reduce cholesterol; enhance athletic performance,
and even aid in the battle against diabetes and kidney disease. Whey
protein is well known in the realms of sports nutrition, weight management,
immune system support and bone health.
There also has been a recent upswing in market
interest for soy protein due to elevated milk protein prices and supply
issues that some manufacturers are experiencing relative to this commodity.
In such cases, soy proteins can successfully replace milk proteins, either
partially or totally, depending on the system, while maintaining consumer
acceptance of the end product and offering cost savings opportunities.
Some of the most popular protein beverages are of the
yogurt and smoothie variety, although many companies are currently
experimenting with other beverage formats in which to incorporate protein.
In the realm of finished products, PowerBar, Berkeley,
Calif., recently expanded its Pria women’s nutrition product line to
include a Complete Nutrition Shake designed to be consumed any time of day
as a nutritious and satisfying meal replacement or snack option. The
170-calorie drink, created specifically with women’s nutritional
needs in mind, provides a blend of carbohydrates, protein and 21 vitamins
and minerals, including 28 percent of the recommended daily value of fiber
and 50 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium, and is free of
trans-fats and artificial flavorings.
The shakes are sold in
packs of four 11-fluid-ounce servings and are available in two flavors
— Creamy Milk Chocolate and French Vanilla.
SoyBlendz from Carbotrol Foods, Glenview, Ill., is a
blend of exotic fruits, juices and whole soy. The company says SoyBlendz is
unique in using only whole soybeans to capture all of soy’s
nutritional benefits, which are reported to help reduce the risk of breast
cancer, prostate cancer and heart disease.
“We use only the ripest fruits, natural fruit
juices, and whole soybeans to give SoyBlendz a ‘straight from the
orchard’ taste,” says SoyBlendz President Gregory Lojkutz.
“Our lactose-free smoothies are unbelievably sweet and fruity, yet
they contain no artificial flavorings, sweeteners or preservatives.”
SoyBlendz fruit and soy protein smoothies are
available in 10-ounce bottles in four flavors:
Mixed Berry Medley, Mango/Orange Dream, Orange Citrus Splash and
Formulating with protein
Despite protein’s documented health benefits,
the act of incorporating protein into a beverage usually presents an array
of challenges. Proteins often impart “off” flavors or
aftertastes, making it necessary for beverage manufacturers to explore
masking ingredients. Other common issues involve heat stability, acid/heat
stability, clarity, dispersability (in dry mix applications) and
The Solae Co., St. Louis, Mo., markets soy proteins
used extensively in both acidic (juice-based) beverages and neutral (more
milk-like) beverages such as Cadbury Beverages’ Snapple a Day,
General Mills’ 8th Continent soymilk and Unilever’s Ultra
SlimFast Shake with Soy Protein. Having worked with such a variety of
beverage applications, the company’s Jean Heggie, marketing leader,
North America food, is quick to point out that each application boils down
to flavor, texture and stability maintenance.
“In acidic beverages, the key challenges with
adding soy, or any protein for that matter, to this type of system are
flavor impact and protein stability,” she says. “In neutral
beverages as well, the issues are flavor and protein stability, as well as
viscosity, particularly at higher protein levels.”
Heggie says Solae has developed specific proteins for
acidic and neutral applications, and has developed technologies for both
applications to help marketers address the unique challenges involved in
incorporating soy proteins into such systems.
When formulating a beverage with protein, Heggie says
that in order to successfully formulate to consumer expectations it is
advisable for ingredient suppliers to work closely with product developers
to understand their consumer, nutrition and taste targets.
But the processing of protein ingredients can present
a number of challenges. “Protein ingredients need to be hydrated
properly and usually have to have a homogenization step to provide the
proper shelf-life stability and flavor or texture,” comments Deborah
Schulz, market development manager at Cargill Inc., Minneapolis.
“Most beverages require some form of stabilization using
hydrocolloids. Acid beverages with protein must use a protein stabilizing
agent — usually pectin — otherwise the protein precipitates.
Also, thermal processing has a significant impact on flavor and stability.
Some forms are more ‘friendly’ than others. Typically retort is
most challenging, followed by UHT and pasteurization.”
Hilmar Ingredients, Hilmar, Calif., offers two Whey
Protein Concentrate (WPC) products, Hilmar 8200 and Hilmar 8610, which are
specifically designed for better heat stability. According to the
company’s Grace Harris, manager of applications and business
development, the company also offers hydrolysates that can be used in
beverage applications and give other nutritional benefits such as partially
digested protein (i.e. FAA and peptides).
Glanbia Nutritionals, Monroe, Wis., offers Thermax 690
Heat Stable Whey Protein Isolate, which is stable in low-acid aseptic and
retort beverages at high protein concentrations — 10 percent or
greater. Compared to standard whey protein isolate, Thermax 690 offers the
flexibility to formulate more protein into the finished beverage. The
product is also processed in a way that virtually eliminates the bitterness
usually associated with hydrolysates. And with less than 1 percent lactose,
it doesn’t add
to the net carb count of the finished beverage, making it ideal for
A matter of taste
In addition to processing difficulties, protein can
present noticeable flavor and texture challenges. Protein beverages are
renowned for imparting a noticeable aftertaste and soy beverages are
usually characterized by a distinctive “beany” taste.
Cargill’s Schulz says the No. 1 soy protein
issue almost always revolves around flavor. “We use a different type
of process to isolate the protein which produces better flavor, most
notably a reduction in aftertaste. This is significant because it is very
difficult, if not impossible, to use flavors to cover aftertaste,”
Cargill recently unveiled the newest addition to its
Prolísse soy protein isolate product line, Prolísse 801 for
powdered/dry blended beverages, which features a smooth mouthfeel and
improved suspension. The company’s patented Prolísse product
is formulated for use in ready-to-drink beverages, both low and high acid,
and offers a reduced aftertaste. A patented processing method enables the
isolate to provides excellent water absorption, fat binding and
The processing method also imparts a neutral, bland
taste — a boon to manufacturers trying to find a way around the
“beany” flavor that’s usually associated with soy-based
drinks, according to Mary Thompson, president of Cargill’s Soy
Protein Solutions. “Because Prolísse soy protein isolate
tastes good (meaning it has a bland flavor, not the traditional beany
soybean taste) incorporating a meaningful amount of soy protein into foods
and beverages is easy,” Thompson says.
Solae recently collaborated with Tetra Pak to develop
beverage concepts that not only showcase Tetra Pak packaging, but also the
versatility, performance and application of Solae’s ingredients in
beverage concepts that are on trend with consumer needs. This series of
concepts include three products. The first product, Chocka Lotta, is a
chocolate-flavored children’s beverage containing half the sugar of
soda. The second product is Radiance, a unique apple-cucumber flavored
product, based on the concept of building
“beauty from within.” The third product is Tempo, a product
based on an optimized blend of soy and whey proteins that is all about
delivering “sustained energy.”
“These concepts showcase how it is possible to
formulate great-tasting, nutritionally positioned beverages based on our
ingredients, and are used to help beverage marketers understand how soy
protein-based beverages can be positioned to address consumers’
nutrition interests and needs,” Heggie says.
Part and parcel to achieving a pleasing flavor is the
ability to develop an appropriate mouthfeel. Often, manufacturers
experience difficulty in achieving a desired texture in their protein
beverages so they seek stabilizing ingredients.
“For a perfectly stabilized yogurt beverage or
juice/milk drink, the proteins must be prevented from sedimentation,”
says Ellen Trost, worldwide product manager for pectin at Danisco, Kansas
City, Mo. “Pectin is able to effectively stabilize protein through
the electrostatic interaction of the negatively charged pectin bound to the
positively charged protein surface.”
Trost says pectin is a good alternative to starch,
which can only slow protein sedimentation by building viscosity.
“Pectin affords a wide range of textures and viscosities — from
something as thin as skim milk to a beverage that is very rich and
creamy,” she says. “Pectin allows you to stabilize the protein
efficiently, while building the desired mouthfeel and texture.”
Danisco manufactures two pectins designed for dual
functionality providing protein stabilization and rich, creamy and velvety
texture and mouthfeel. According to Trost, Grindsted Pectin AMD 382 and 383
are ideal for indulgent beverages or to replace viscosity lost in
FMC BioPolymer, headquartered in Philadelphia,
recently launched Avicel RT 1133 cellulose gel (to complement its existing
Avicel microcrystalline cellulose stabilizer), which provides long-term
shelf stability, creamy mouthfeel at reduced retort-processing time. The
company says this new, “more flexible” offering delivers an
excellent flavor profile, as well as a reliable product consistency without separation or settling.
Growing legions of consumers are coming to appreciate
protein’s role in a healthy diet. Because beverages are such a
convenient way to incorporate protein into the diet, manufacturers continue
to formulate new products in an effort to make protein more accessible to a
wider consumer audience. BI
Capitalizing on health benefits
The positive effects of whey protein consumption has
been linked to everything from diabetes management and cardiovascular
health to wound healing and anti-cancer benefits. But one of the most
renowned benefits of whey protein in the role it plays in weight management
— something Glanbia Nutritionals had in mind when it developed
Prolibra Whey Mineral Protein, an ingredient said to induce positive
changes in body composition by promoting fat loss while maintaining lean
body mass. A patent-pending, dairy-derived ingredient, Prolibra is said to
accelerate fat loss — inducing weight loss from fat, without
sacrificing lean body mass. Prolibra also increases satiety, promoting the
feeling of fullness longer. Further research is planned to clinically
support further claims, including one human trial currently underway.