The ingredient, called Nutrilac PB-8420, keeps bars soft and chewy for a year or more depending on storage conditions, the company claims. It says 45% of U.S. consumers bought a high-protein bar in the past month, but a common complaint is they lose their chewy texture by the time they are consumed.
The ingredient is derived from cow’s milk, and the company is showcasing it in a coconut and apple bar with 28% protein. “Clean label and high protein are two of the industry’s biggest trends, but they are not mutually exclusive,” Inge Lise Povlsen, senior category manager for bakery and beverages at Arla, told the publication.
Whey protein is a major by-product of the cheese-making process, and was once considered a waste product. However, as consumer interest in protein-packed foods and beverages has increased in recent years, so has food manufacturers’ interest in whey.
According to a report from ResearchAndMarkets, the protein ingredients market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6% from 2017, reaching $58.5 billion by 2022. Despite the rise of plant-based proteins, those ingredients derived from animals, such as whey, still lead the category, largely because of their more complete nutritional profile. Whey protein contains all nine essential amino acids, making it particularly attractive to maintain muscle strength and function, and to help promote the growth of lean muscle mass.
Yet whey-based protein bars tend to go hard relatively quickly, shortening their shelf life as they become less palatable for consumers. For manufacturers, longer shelf life means being able to store products for longer prior to shipping and less wastage. NASA has also looked at ways to prevent the hardening of whey protein bars. Its research suggests combining whey protein with plant polyphenols holds some promise.
When it comes to the clean label credentials of whey protein, most manufacturers agree that sourcing is all-important, with non-GMO and grass-fed as a minimum. Arla Foods Ingredients’ whey protein is also hormone-free, and has no antibiotic or pesticide traces.
The potential to keep a bar softer and chewier longer could have huge implications for companies that produce the snack, boosting sales and potentially reducing waste. If the hardening process can be slowed, it could discourage fewer consumers from souring on the bars if they purchase one and its hard - a bad experience could deter the shopper from purchasing the item in the future.