New protein bar ingredients help formulators fine tune taste and texture

April 8, 2020

NZMP, the global ingredients brand of Fonterra, has added three new dairy-based ingredients to its SureProtein bar ingredients portfolio. Each offers a way for manufacturers to achieve optimal taste and texture in their protein bar formulations.

NZMP, the global ingredients brand of Fonterra, has added three new dairy-based ingredients to its SureProtein bar ingredients portfolio. Each offers a way for manufacturers to achieve optimal taste and texture in their protein bar formulations.

“Typically, bars are formulated with a blend of ingredients,” explains Rachel Marshall, NZMP’s technical engagement manager for Sports and Active Lifestyles. “The way I liken getting the right texture and mouthfeel is to running a bath. If it’s just hot water or cold water, you’re not going to have a good bath, but you use hot and cold water together to get to the right temperature.”

Solving Bar Hardness and Texture Challenges

The main challenge with protein bar formulation is that protein bars can change texture, getting harder and chewier with time. This is where the SureProtein ingredients come in. For example, FlexBar 510 is an existing ingredient in the line that NZMP suggests as the base of most bar formulations because of its flexibility. A whey protein concentrate, the ingredient is unusual in that it can achieve a satisfactory texture on its own, even without blending. “You can use it in a lot of blends as well, and it gives us relatively soft bites throughout bar shelf life,” says Marshall. “It’s stable, it has a clean milky texture, and it can also help build structure.”

The three newly launched ingredients offer additional solutions. NZMP’s three new SureProtein ingredients are Optibar 892 Whey Protein Isolate, ShortBar 825 Lactalbumin, and SoftBar 1000 Milk Protein. Each of them provides unique positions on what the firm calls its “texture map,” which is a scale of softness and firmness, as well as crumbly, short texture and chewiness.

“Optibar 892 is more on the firm texture building side,” says Marshall. “Sometimes this can be a negative thing but often there are ingredients so soft you need to build texture and structure in the bar. It’s stable over time and gives you more cohesion, so if you’ve got other components in a bar that are too crumbly, Optibar 892 is really useful and low in lactose and sugar, and high in protein.”

On the other end of the spectrum is ShortBar 825, which offers a short, or crumbly, texture. “At too high a level, it’s not all that desirable, but it works really well to counter chewiness in an all-whey bar,” explains Marshall. “The ingredient is most similar to is calcium caseinate, which isn’t a whey ingredient and not seen as clean label by many consumers. If you can blend these whey ingredients together to get to the right zone without using calcium caseinate, then you’re in a good place.”

More in the middle is SoftBar 1000, which gives softness to bar formulations. “[SoftBar 1000] is designed to be used in conjunction with some of these other texture-building ingredients to get to the right texture,” says Marshall. “On its own, it’s too soft and not very good to put through a processing line. It really helps to counter the firming of the other ingredients and helps to get you to the right zone.”

Protein bars are quite ubiquitous, so the best way to stand out is to offer the best taste and texture a consumer could ask for. NZMP’s goal is to give bar formulators the tools to most easily create optimal taste and texture in a high protein bar, while meeting clean label and nutritional standards. “What we see these ingredients doing is enabling that aspirational trend of one gram of protein to one gram of sugar type composition but not being as chewy as some bars are today,” says Marshall. “So, you can get a bar we believe will be a lot easier to eat and more enjoyable for the mainstream consumer.”