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The protein market has moved rapidly beyond body building into the mainstream. High protein foods, according to research from Mintel, are now one of the most sought after nutritional choices among American consumers, to meet a variety of needs, including balancing diet and weight loss. Protein benefits the bones and the immune system, and helps the elderly maintain health.
Dietary fibre intake provides many health benefits, but average fibre intakes for US children and adults are less than half of the recommended levels. Individuals with high intakes of dietary fibre appear to be at significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increasing fibre intake lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels. Increased intake of soluble fiber improves glycemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals. (*)
Snacks are a convenient and palatable carrier for these beneficial products, and any existing extruded or co-extruded product recipe can be easily augmented.
To be labelled as a source of protein, 12% of the energy in a product must come from protein; for claiming high protein the figure is 20%. Wheat flour naturally contains a protein base of between 8% and 15%, depending on the variety of wheat; oats also include proteins.
Protein snacks are an extension of the move towards healthy eating, so it is most likely that a whole grain or multi-grain format would also be chosen to make a positive contribution to the nutritional profile, and strengthen the ‘feel good’ factor. Extruded snacks with bread-style doughs such as croutons, crispbreads and pita are all appropriate as high protein products.
So, what does making a high-protein or high fibre extruded snack involve? Wheat based gluten proteins, dairy based whey proteins and fibre can be introduced to any extruded snack in powder form; soluble fibres can be added to co-extruded products. Trials in our Innovation Centre quickly produced formulations for commercially viable snacks.
Snacks have to taste good, and have an appealing texture. There’s absolutely no reason why high-protein snacks should not meet these criteria. Possibilities include the use of ‘healthy’ vegetables and pulses as ingredients; plus the introduction of more exotic flavours: Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic tastes are becoming increasingly popular.
Protein and fibre are, it seems to me, yet more opportunities for the snacks industry to take advantage of the continuing trend towards a healthy diet, and to shed its ‘fat and bad for you’ image.
(*) US National Center for Biotechnology Information.
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