Protein Is Trending in Chocolate, But Comes with Formulating Challenges

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Protein is a hot new ingredient in chocolate, but as chocolate manufacturers explain, fortifying chocolate with protein comes with its own set of challenges.

Protein-fortified chocolates are growing in popularity. Emily Brau, senior marketing communications specialist, Cargill (Minneapolis), says that while added-protein chocolates once appealed to a narrower, athlete-focused segment, the market for chocolates with added protein has since expanded.

Part of protein-chocolate’s appeal has to do with the growing popularity of protein as a healthy ingredient, Brau says. “A growing number of consumers are interested in better-for-you foods, and are seeking out foods that provide greater nutritional value,” she says. “In addition, more consumers are incorporating exercise into their daily routines. As a result of these changing lifestyle and eating behaviors, the market for added protein has expanded.” 

But fortifying a chocolate product with added protein comes with certain formulating challenges. Fatemeh Khadem, senior technical services manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, acknowledges that there are several key technical factors to consider when formulating chocolate with added protein, including maintaining a chocolate-like flavor, texture, and rheology (viscosity).

According to Julie Emsing Mann, global protein program manager, Ingredion Inc. (Westchester, IL), the challenges associated with adding protein to a chocolate product occur on two levels: during processing, and during the consumer’s eating experience. She explains that manufacturing chocolate with additional protein will likely modify its rheological properties, resulting in “organoleptic defects in the mouthfeel and melt of the chocolate mass.” The primary challenge is that chocolates with added protein are more likely to be dry and powdery rather than smooth. And the higher the protein content, Mann says, the greater the risk of a dry end product.

Barry Callebaut’s (Zurich, Switzerland) Mark Adriaenssens, vice president, research and development, Americas, and Laura Bergan, director, innovation and market development, North America, also say that maintaining a chocolate-like texture when working with proteins is a critical challenge.

“When adding protein to a chocolate or compound,” they state, “you are adding more dry ingredients to an end chocolate product, which will affect flavor and texture. It is critical to find the best proteins with the best possible flavor while not [introducing] dryness or coarseness, which affects the mouthfeel and texture.”

Ingredion’s Mann says that protein pulses, for example, from yellow pea, fava bean, or lentils, can help to sidestep the less-than-ideal mouthfeel issues in chocolate products with added protein. She adds that Ingredion currently offers both pulse concentrates, available in clean-taste versions, and a pea protein isolate. “The clean-taste products go through a gentle moisture and heat treatment to reduce the vegetal top-notes and produce a clean tasting product, which is very well-suited for chocolate products, she explains. To read more about Ingredion’s pea protein isolate and how it can help food formulators include a high level of protein in a product, click here.

Ingredion’s fava bean protein isolate, meanwhile, has a 55%-60% protein content, 13% fiber content, a mild flavor profile, and “excellent emulsification properties,” Mann says, all of which can help to provide a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

Cargill, for its part, uses a variety of protein sources to navigate protein manufacturing challenges in chocolate, depending on the specific application. Khadem says that consumers are very familiar with and continue to seek out whey protein, but adds that Cargill’s vegetable and plant-based proteins can help meet increased consumer demand for plant-based ingredients, too.

The idea that chocolate can offer consumers more than just a little post-meal indulgence is not a hard sell. And, as chocolate continues to infiltrate the functional foods and healthy snacking sectors bit by bit, there’s never been a better time to embrace the healthier chocolate possibilities.



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