A whey protein additive that keeps nutritional bars soft could help food makers break into what is a lucrative and highly innovative market, writes Anthony Fletcher.
Hilmar Ingredients claims that its 8370 Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) allows food makers to produce bars with softer and more pliable textures than with WPC (whey protein concentrate) or WPI (Whey Protein Isolate), and offers improved flavor over other hydrolysates.
"We have conducted model bar studies looking at the hardness of bars over a one year period using real time texture analysis," Grace Harris, Hilmar's applications and business development manager told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
"These studies have shown that Hilmar 8370 helps to keep the nutrition bars flexible and soft. This is a key area of concern for consumers of high protein bars."
Indeed the hardening and brittleness of nutritional bars remains a major problem for food formulators eager to cash in on what is a growing sector. A Frost & Sullivan report entitled "US Sports and Fitness Nutrition Markets" predicts that the nutrition bar sector, which generated almost $2 billion in revenues last year, will grow to $4.5 billion by 2007.
"There are a lot of bars out there, and what changes are the nutritional profiles," said Harris. "These are determined by trends such as the popularity of the Atkins diet, the 40:30:30 (40 percent of calories as carbohydrates, 30 percent as protein and 30 percent as fat) diet and low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic index diets."
Harris also points out that a current trend is to make nutrition bars more and more like confectionery bars, a process that is blurring the line between the nutra and mainstream food sectors.
The industry therefore has to be extremely innovative, and food makers are constantly striving to find ways of achieving brand differentiation in an increasingly competitive market. Hilmar's 8370 is targeted at all nutritional bar applications as a means by which manufacturers can extend shelf life without compromising taste.
"The product is an 80 percent WPH, containing pre-digested proteins, short peptides and amino acids," said Harris. "It can be used alone or as partial replacement for caseinate, hydrolyzed gelatin and soy protein."
Himar 8370 is derived from dairy whey that is processed by a special cross-flow filtration process. The concentrate is then enzymatically hydrolyzed to produce a mixture of peptides and free amino acids.
"Another key attribute of the product is the low degree of bitterness that is typical from hydrolyzed proteins," said Harris. "Our R&D staff has developed an unique process to lower the amount of bitterness and brothiness typically found in hydrolysates."
Interestingly, a report from Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, suggests that women are a key factor in the growth of the US nutritional bar sector. The study says that they are 12 to 15 per cent more likely to eat food bars than men.
Research also shows that most American women get less than two-thirds of the vitamins and minerals they need. The report remarks that marketers should therefore appeal to these consumers by focusing on the portability and wholesome ingredients in their food bar products.