Perfecting Fortified Plant Protein Beverages

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Contributed by Khoo Kim Ching, Futura Ingredients

 

The pandemic has pushed us to re-evaluate what health means to each individual.

For some of us, that would mean exercising more regularly or giving up on bad habits. Some have also opted to switch diets and maintain a healthier plant-based lifestyle. In recent years, we see plant-based products more readily available in stores to meet the needs of not just a very health-conscious society, but an ethical one at that.

Plant-based beverages were innovated out of necessity to support the health goals of consumers, the environment, ethical and modern-day belief systems which are mainly driven by the vegetarian or vegan segments. Today, flexitarians join the bandwagon while they reinforce that plant-based non-dairy products and beverages are not only nutritious but taste equally good as dairy-based products.

As the world of plant proteins take on a trendier avatar as “new age milk”, we now gradually see the shift from just a vegan or dairy alternative into nutritional, thirst-quenching or snacking options. As such, consumers are expecting fairly similar attributes and consumption experience as they would get from a regular dairy-based beverage.

However, the composition of plant proteins is very different to that of pure dairy, which make formulations of such substitutes tricky. The four main challenges are Emulsion Stability, Phase Separation, Sedimentation, Taste and Texture. 

Plant proteins are of a different format from dairy proteins—they behave differently from dairy proteins, therefore formulating with plant protein has some technical challenges that need to be addressed.

 

Emulsion Stability 

The oil component in plant-based beverages is essential as it imparts the main characteristic of mouth feel. In healthier formulations, polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower oil is preferred. Polyunsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature, thus the emulsion tends to breakdown easily. Emulsifiers are added to facilitate the formation and stability of oil in water emulsion. Small and homogenous oil droplet sizes are achieved under pressurised homogenisation.

To achieve the perfect desired mouthfeel, emulsion stability is the most important factor that is determined by the ability of the emulsifier to inhibit droplet aggregation. Large oil droplets will rapidly form a layer of cream at the surface of the beverage, thus causing the oily mouthfeel when the beverage is consumed.

 Phase Separation 

Another challenge in plant-based beverages is that it breaks down easily, especially after heating, contributing to phase separation. On that account, aligning the appearance to flavour and texture is critical. In this process, it is imperative to use stabilisers to modify the texture by increasing the viscosity and retarding the gravitational separation—both resulting in stabilising the aqueous phase, which leads us to the last, but not least, challenge for perfect formulation and sedimentation.

 

Sedimentation 

Over the years, there has been a consistent rise of consumer demand for plant-based beverages and non-dairy products. They want variety! This gives formulators more opportunity to formulate an array of healthy options catered to different needs by fortifying the beverage with additional nutrients. Be it increasing the protein level or including fibres, minerals, and phytonutrients, these fortifications are prone to sedimentation. Some may say that sedimentation will not happen if it is stirred and consumed quickly enough. However, not in the case of long shelf-life plant-based beverage. When the sediment occurs—as in fortified nutrients are left undisturbed for a period of time, they will stay as sediment at the bottom of package and will not easily be re-dispersed when shaken—failing to deliver the nutrients to the consumers.

 

To address this challenge, stabilisers that can create a network or fluid gel matrix is essential. These stabilisers can hold or trap the particles—keeping them suspended in the beverage while still delivering its nutritional benefits. In addition, these networks also contribute to emulsion stability and creaminess of the mouthfeel to the beverage.

 

Taste & Textures  

Plant-based beverages come with sensory challenges, especially when fortifying with plant proteins. Besides contributing bitterness and a beany flavour, plant proteins are more rigid and less flexible, resulting in a powdery and gritty mouthfeel. Selecting a plant protein with reduced off taste is crucial to guarantee a repurchase of the product. Futura Ingredients’ Ekölite VITA Plant Protein Series is carefully selected for a large variety of plant-based beverage applications.

Other than adding ingredients to mask the bitterness and beany flavour, texturising systems such as the Ekömul KREM 307 ND, that contains both emulsifier and stabilisers plays an important role in enhancing the creaminess and imparting smoother mouthfeel with good flavour release. With the addition of Ekömul KREM 307 ND into plant-based beverages, it contributes to better processing, quality performance, product shelf-life and sensorial profile.

Futura Ingredients tackles these concerns with the combination of Ekӧlite VITA Plant Protein Series, which uses plant protein sources from pea, brown rice, pumpkin seeds and the Ekömul KREM Series of Texturising Systems as the solution to perfecting the formulation in plant protein beverages. As the evolution of plant protein beverages continues to increase in demand and options, Futura Ingredients offers formulation solutions and technical advice in creating these wonderful thirst quenchers.

Speak to us at FUTURA INGREDIENTS to find out more on our wide range of emulsifiers, stabilisers and texturising systems that can retard the physical instability and deterioration of baked goods, oils & fats, ice cream and beverage products.


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