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Peanut protein: an untapped opportunity?

By Lynda Searby , 20-Sep-2011
Last updated the 21-Sep-2011 at 10:51 GMT

European food manufacturers have yet to wake up to the potential of peanut flour as an alternative source of plant protein and a value-adding ingredient in bars, cookies, breads and weight management products, according to a peanut industry trade association.

The American Peanut Council told BakeryAndSnacks.com that in the US, peanut flour - a dry powder formed after the partial extraction of oil from the roasted peanut seed - is now widely used to impart flavour and protein to baked goods, cereal and nutrition bars.

The market there has been almost single-handedly driven by Golden Peanut Company, which is owned by ingredient firm ADM.

“Peanut flour itself is not a new ingredient, but it is only recently that it has really become a mainstream food ingredient in the US,” Andrew Craig, health education consultant for the association, told BakeryAndSnacks.com. “Now it has caught on, it is finding its way into all sorts of applications.”

Europe – slow on the up-take

However, he said that in Europe, peanut flour still remains a virtually untapped source of protein, despite containing 40-50% protein, and offering a number of advantages over other plant protein sources.

“Protein-fortified products often suffer from taste and textural issues. We don’t want to knock soy protein but it can give products a ‘beany’ taste,” said Craig. “Peanut flour can help manufacturers overcome these challenges, thanks to its textural properties and flavoursome profile. Peanut flour does taste of peanuts, but the level of roast determines how nutty the taste is. A light roasted flour will have a milder taste, while a dark roasted flour will be more flavourful.”

He believes there is scope for using peanut flour to add flavour and nutrition to a range of products, including nutrition bars and snacks, cookies, pie crusts and baked goods, but that greater consumer understanding of protein will be key to developing the market.

“It’s a chicken and egg situation – until manufacturers want to think about enhanced protein foods, the general consumer thinks protein and automatically thinks meat. The public has to become more aware of the positive advantages of protein and plant protein in particular to create demand.”

At the same time, he says protein products are starting to break out of the sports nutrition mould and some consumer groups are beginning to recognise protein’s weight management potential.

“Health conscious consumers are more aware than ever of protein’s benefits, which include weight management and satiety. We therefore expect more manufacturers to turn to peanut flour as they look to meet growing demand for protein-rich products derived from plants.”

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