When formulating a protein bar, it’s important to remember that protein, as well as other added nutrients, can impact both taste and texture. The recent uptick in requests for indulgent bar formulation noted by Glanbia Nutritionals indicates just how essential overcoming these taste and texture challenges is to meeting the expectations of today’s consumers.
“We can achieve a bar that provides benefits with a delicious tasting flavor,” said Michael Levine, Director Product Strategy, Flavors, at Glanbia Nutritionals. “Indulgence and health do not have to be mutually exclusive.”
All Proteins Are Not Created Equal
Ingredient choices, especially protein choices, can help or hinder brands when it comes achieving their ideal bar formulation. One thing to consider is protein quality. Adolphson notes that dairy proteins provide a high-quality complete protein, or one that achieves a PDCAAS of 1.0.
Most plant proteins, including pea protein, require the addition of other proteins to supplement their amino acid content for a complete protein. Often, blending plant proteins can influence a bar’s texture, as they tend to be drier.
The type of protein is an important consideration in formulating a protein bar. Dairy and plant proteins can vary significantly here, with dairy proteins tending to be smooth and plant proteins often gritty. There is even variation among dairy proteins, with whey protein producing a chewier, denser texture than milk protein, according to Adolphson.
Then there’s flavor. Plant proteins have additional challenges here due to bitter, beany, and grassy notes. “The flavor masking aspect in plant-based formulations is so much more relevant,” says Brooke Rosenthal, Glanbia Nutritionals Product Strategy Manager, Flavors. “In plant-based formulations, application scientists and flavorists work together to optimize the full system.”
Whereas dairy-based proteins provide a clean slate, plant-based formulations are a better canvas for bold flavors. “Plant-proteins impart their own inherent flavors which can often be a challenge,” stresses Adolphson. “Most of the time, brands have specific flavors in mind, but sometimes protein can help guide flavor.”
For example, pea proteins are not well suited to delicate flavors like vanilla and almond but can work well with more assertive notes like cinnamon or chai. “Most of the time, we can make bars that match the customer’s request,” Adolphson acknowledges, “but we also give them options that may be better suited and let them make the decision.”