February 16, 2010

5 Min Read
Best Whey to Formulate

By Lynn A. Kuntz, Editor-In-Chief

When people think of whey protein, they often think of body-building supplements. Thats probably the premier application for whey protein isolate, due to its concentrated high-quality protein nutrition and high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which provide an energy source during endurance exercise. However, due to the wide rage of available ingredients and functionality, WPI applications are branching out in a number of new directions.

Protein functions

From a functional standpoint, whey proteins can provide the following:

  • Adhesion: WPI can enhance the adherence of breadcrumbs or batters to substrates.

  • Antioxidant Activity: Studies indicate whey proteins might prevent lipid oxidation in pre-cooked meats, such as pork and salmon.

  • Emulsification: WPI creates stable emulsions, to orient at the oil/water interface of the mixture, particularly when the denatured proteins allow exposed hydrophilic amino acid residues.

  • One 2007 study found that stabilizing beverage emulsions with whey protein isolate may inhibit the loss of citrus flavor ingredients (Food Chemistry, 2008; 106(2):698-705).

  • Gelling and Water-binding: Undenatured whey proteins, when heated, form rigid irreversible gels that hold water. This can maintain moistness, and improve texture and mouthfeel in baked goods, yogurt and cheese, and provide fat-like attributes in low-fat products.

  • Whipping and Foaming: Whey proteins can stabilize gas bubbles in a liquid and help maintain foam properties.

All of these functionalities can be modified by the method the whey protein is processed. WPI produced by microfiltration retains the glycomacropeptide (GMP) component and can be slightly less functional for heat stability, explains Grace Harris, manager of new business and applications, Hilmar Ingredients, Hilmar, CA. During the ion-exchange process, the GMP fraction is not retained in the WPI stream, and ion-exchange WPI tends to be less functional in gel strength without salt.

This allows whey protein isolates to be manufactured with a wide range of functionalities. Understanding the role processing plays in these differences, we developed a unique manufacturing method for Hilmar WPI that both captures the GMP fraction while maintaining functionality, says Gwen Bargetzi, director of marketing, Hilmar Ingredients. Foods and beverages now have the advantage of heat stability over standard pasteurization, strong gelling qualities and the nutritional advantage of bioactive fractions.

This allows for many new applications. For example, Harris has been doing a lot of development work with a specific WPI ingredient in systems where proper viscosity is critical, like protein shots and gels. In addition, new research is showing that WPI also has advantages in film formation, she says. Adding WPI to breading and coating appears to prevent some of the fat absorption that occurs during deep-fat frying. And WPI can be used for film formation to slow oxidation rates in higher-fat items like nuts.

Researchers at USDA-ARSs Dairy Processing and Products Research Unit, Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), Wyndmoor, PA, have developed technology that combines casein with water and glycerol to produce a glossy, transparent, water-resistant, film that can be used as an edible coating for foods. We use carbon dioxide as an environmentally friendly solvent to isolate dairy proteins from milk, instead of harsh chemicals or acids, which can be difficult to dispose of, says ARS research leader Peggy Tomasula.

WPIs are widely used in ready-to-mix protein-powder beverages and in protein bars, says Eric D. Bastian, Ph. D, vice president, research & development, Glanbia Nutritionals, Monroe, WI. However, they appear to have been underutilized in ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, he says. Given the stability of WPI at acidic pH and the high level of clarity that we see developing in some WPI offerings, beverage manufacturers are well positioned to create consumer-friendly, highly nutritional beverages for a range of market sectors, not limited to sports nutrition.

Weighing in on kids

There are other WPI applications on the horizon. One of the most important might be in more-nutritious products for children. Almost one-third (23 million) of children ages 2 to19 are either overweight or obese, yet lack sufficient levels of essential nutrients.

Rather than in a specific food or and beverage, I see the real frontier for WPI in kids nutrition, says Bargetzi. Obesity among children is making headlines around the world, generating a vocal and energetic movement across society. Food and beverage makers are being challenged to address the obesity problem by offering more products for children that are supportive of recognized parameters for good nutrition.

Because they grow so fast and so much of their future well-being depends on healthy development, kids need high-quality protein, Bargetzi continues. Milk-derived whey protein isolates can help meet that need. Naturally derived from fresh, wholesome milk, WPI is a complete proteinwith all the amino acids in an optimum blend for human health. And at 90% protein, WPI delivers maximum protein with almost no fat or carbohydrate. Couple those nutritional advantages with formulation advantages like clarity, clean taste, and heat stability, and there is almost no kids food or beverage that cant be improved with WPI.

Bargetzi notes that many of the newer, health-to-go formulations for beverages and bars are possible because of WPI. These include protein waters, clear protein beverages, and dry powder pixie stick mixes. And, while protein bars have been around for a while, the category is always evolving, with new flavors, textures and nutritional platforms, she says. WPI plays a key weight-management role in these products by promoting satiety, delivering essential nutrients and helping to maintain muscle and increase body fat loss as part of a healthy, reduced-calorie diet.

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