“For years formulators just had whey and soy to work with, and now it’s hello marketplace for all these new plant proteins. I think sprouted rice and pea resonate with consumers because whey protein is still associated with bodybuilding in some people’s minds,” Alan Rillorta, director of branded ingredients at AIDP, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“But there is room for all varieties as there has been a real explosion in the protein market in the past couple of years; in 2012, 19% of new product launches featured protein claims according to Mintel. The protein market is just booming."
Protein is making its way into the mainstream
He added: “Datamonitor product launch analytics data (click here, slide 16) also shows that apart from where protein has always been used - in things like shakes and meal replacements - there has also been a big rise in high protein claims on frozen yogurt, artisanal ice cream, soups, cereal bars and breakfast cereals, not just products reserved for bodybuilders. Protein is making its way into the mainstream.
“But whey protein prices have been climbing in price, which is a big concern for formulators. We’re offering an alternative high quality protein at a fraction of the price - roughly half the cost of whey - that also allows companies to get into vegan markets.”
Sprouting boosts lysine levels, helps create more complete protein
The ‘sprouted’ aspect of Gabiotein - a buzzword for many consumers and marketers right now - also has nutritional benefits, said Rillorta.
Once the seed germinates, the chemistry in the rice kernel rapidly transforms - altering the amino acid profile such that the protein becomes more complete, notably by increasing lysine, which is low in conventional rice protein.
And this is opening up doors in sports nutrition as well as general health and wellness applications, he said. “A few years ago, whey was the only game in town for hardcore sports guys, but we’re seeing vegan proteins going into more and more sports nutrition products today.
“We’ve also launched a blend of sprouted rice protein with pea protein called Advantein. Pea protein is low in cysteine and methionine but high in lysine, whereas rice is higher in cysteine and methionine and lower in lysine, so you get a more complete amino acid profile.”
As for speed of digestion, he added: “Sports guys are very nutrition conscious and they are looking at the right protein at the right time, so when they want a fast-digesting protein, they might look at hydrolyzed whey, a slow one they might look at casein. Rice is in the middle.”
Smooth texture, neutral taste, flavor, color
Formulators, meanwhile, like Gabiotein’s smooth even texture (ideal for sports nutrition products, non-dairy smoothies, shakes and even infant formula); neutral taste, smell and color (which does not require masking); easy digestibility; and the fact it stays suspended in liquid longer the regular rice protein - without separating (key in beverage formulation); he said.
So how much success has the product -launched at the IFT show last summer - had to date?
“Momentum is continuing to build,” claimed Rillorta. “There are already products on shelf using Gabiotein and a huge amount of products in development from start-ups in health & wellness to some of the biggest brands in food, beverage and pharma. The applications cover everything from protein bars to soups, beverages and powdered shakes.
“We’ve got a 90% protein isolate but the most popular is the 80% protein concentrate, which is lower cost and incredibly versatile. We can also offer organic versions”
Some customers are latching on to the ‘sprouted’ aspect or playing up the rice source, while others are just interested in making protein claims, he said.
AIDP produces the protein with a partner in China using a by-product of the rice syrup production process. Rival producers dry this 'waste' stream down to “slags,” which are stored for shipping to a separate protein production facility, which can affect protein quality, said Rillorta.
At AIDP, the syrup and protein ingredients are made simultaneously in the same facility, yielding a product with a more complete protein profile, a better smell and taste, a smoother texture, lighter color and a better performance in applications that require liquid suspension.
“Unlike some other firms selling rice proteins, we also use the whole kernel - the bran, the germ and the endosperm” he added.
Meanwhile, the vertically integrated, field-to-plant manufacturing eliminates unnecessary processing steps, ensures no cross contamination from allergens, and delivers a higher quality product, he claimed.