With the surging popularity of sports nutrition and products geared toward an everyday active lifestyle, bakers are seizing the day to leverage the power of protein in everything from bars and bread to cookies, muffins and even other more indulgent sweet goods. However, taste and texture can be the biggest challenges, especially when ratcheting up the nutrition profile that provides a “good source” of protein that appeals to hardcore athletes and average consumers.

“As you increase the protein content, bitter and off flavors can come through,” noted John Schmitz, Ph.D., research scientist, Bakery, Kerry Ingredients. “Depending on the source of protein — whether its whey, soy or vegetable — those off flavors may become intolerable.”

Kerry recently launched ProDiem, a plant-based protein platform that uses a proprietary processing technique that combines oats, peas and/or rice with the company’s masking technology to offset astringent flavors and poor texture. ProDiem offers a complete nutritional profile with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score of 1.0, the highest level for evaluating the protein quality based on the amino acid requirements of humans and their ability to digest it.

During IFT17, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and exposition, Kerry featured an array of products, including Southern Fried Chicken Flatbread appetizers with 6 grams of protein per serving in the flatbread. The company has been able to formulate bread and tortillas with up to 9 grams of protein per serving

Maintaining softness sometimes emerges as an issue when adding protein to bread-related items. Kerry pairs ProDiem with its Biobake enzymes to formulate products with a “good source” of protein that still have the taste and texture of their traditional counterparts.

Bars, however, may have distinct issues because of the amount of protein they contain.

“High-protein bars have long been associated with chalky and brick-like consistencies,” Dr. Schmitz pointed out. “Texture issues may arise in nutrition bars because of shelf life as protein hardens over time, leaving you with a product that has unacceptable texture and taste.”

ProDiem Total Novel Texture (TNT) enhances the nutritional value of bars while providing stability without compromising flavor or texture, he added. ProDiem TNT also has been incorporated into cookie formulations. In other products, Kerry incorporates Myvatex texture systems, a combination of enzymes, emulsifiers and gums, while its TasteSense line minimizes potential off flavors.

Overall, Dr. Schmitz observed, the hydration of proteins depends on the sources, but most will be similar to vital wheat gluten in that for each 1% of plant protein an average of 1% to 1.5% of additional water is needed.

“Water absorption of pea and rice proteins will be higher than regular wheat flour,” he added. “Exact amounts will vary based on purity and concentration, but a good starting point for hydration is usually 1:1. Most plant proteins hydrate fairly quickly in dough systems so prehydration is not usually necessary.”