The FiE this week was awash with European and American companies offering the market whey protein isolates. In the US, scientists have found a further formulation for the ingredient with researchers at the Agricultural Research Service creating a new snack for the health-driven consumer.
The ARS recently filed a patent on the process, which uses a standard industry device called the twin screw extruder, to make crunchy snacks with the whey proteins.
By using whey, the process boosts protein in expanded snacks - such as breakfast cereals, corn puffs, cheese curls and energy bars - from the traditional average of about 2 to 5 per cent to 35per cent.
According to Charles Onwulata, a food technologist at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, US, most crunchy snacks are made from high-starch products such as corn flour. An extruder, consisting of a long, heated barrel with two mixing screws inside, cooks the starch as the screws mix and push it through the machine to form the snack food. The crunchiness of the snack is determined by moisture content and temperature as it leaves the extruder.
ARS reports that Onwulata together with colleagues at the ERRC Dairy Processing and Products Research unit set out to improve the nutritional profile of puffed snack foods by extruding corn flour with concentrated forms of whey.
They report that initially they found that the whey, in a form called whey protein isolate (WPI), reduced the crunchiness, colour and texture of extruded snack foods. According to Onwulata, they were able to change the temperature and moisture in the extruder, so that the WPI blended well with corn flour to make crunchier snacks.
French company Armor Proteines launched a new generation of WPI at the FiE this week with, according to the firm, 'guaranteed levels of biocomponents'. No mistaking the importance of whey proteins for Dutch company Borcolo Domo ingredients as a massive, several metre high 'whey protein' slogan formed the backdrop to the company's stand at the exhibition.