Protein Chemistry and Formulation Needs

Posted on:August 30, 2013
Amino Acid Structure

Amino acid structure determines a protein’s functional properties.

The following is an excerpt from the Arla Foods Ingredients-sponsored 2013 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Report. A Global Food Forums, Inc. event, this in-person program provided compelling information for developers of protein-enhanced foods, beverages and nutritional products. Click here for a copy of the report.

Proteins are added to food for nutritional reasons and for their functionality. Functional abilities include viscosity enhancement and water binding; gelation; aeration and foaming; and emulsification with contributions to a food’s flavor, texture and color.

When formulating a food or beverage, it is advisable to first consider why a protein ingredient would be used. For example, if it is just for viscosity or emulsification, alternatives such as starch or a lipid-based emulsifier should be considered, because proteins are the most expensive macro-ingredient as compared to carbohydrates and fats.

Beyond functionality, other factors that influence which protein is chosen for a product’s formulation include the percent of protein within the ingredient, digestibility, allergenicity, label simplicity, desired label claims, animal welfare, and amino acid profile and score. A wide range of food components can contribute proteins at a wide range of costs. For example, clams, such as those used in chowder, are an expensive protein source, while soy flour and soy proteins are one of the most economical. They offer good nutritional quality, and the soy industry provides soy proteins in numerous forms for specific needs.

Proteins have four levels of structure. The first degree of structure is the order of amino acids of which the protein molecule is composed. Amino acids contain an amino and carboxyl group, with additional side chains that are aliphatic, aromatic, basic and so on, which deter¬mine a protein’s properties in nature. The second- and third-degree structures determine the three-dimensional organization of the protein chain, and the fourth degree defines the spatial relationship between the protein molecules. The structure of a protein molecule governs the function. For example, of the two primary proteins found in milk, some 80% is casein with most of the rest being whey proteins. Casein contains strongly hydrophobic regions; has a random coil structure; and is relatively heat-stable but unstable in lower-pH environments. Whey proteins have a balance of hydrophobic and hydrophilic areas; are globular in structure with many helical segments; and are easily denatured by heat—that is, they are unstable to heat. However, they are more stable to low-pH levels than is casein.

Protein denaturation is an important phenomenon influencing how these molecules behave in food. Denaturation unfolds the protein molecule, exposing its hydrophobic side groups, enabling them to participate in reactions. Many factors denature proteins, including temperature, pH, shearing, high pressure, organic solvents, salts, (such as citrates and phosphates); and oxidizing and reducing agents, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or the amino acid L-cysteine.

Other aspects are influential in the denaturing process. For example, water tends to promote denaturation, while salts and sugar can stabilize proteins. Denaturation is generally reversible under mild conditions, unless protein hydrolysis, deamidation or aggregation occurs.

When a protein molecule is denatured (i.e., unfolds), non-polar regions of the protein orient themselves toward the gas (air) or lipid phase of a food, while polar residues orient toward the aqueous (water) phase of the food matrix. When the hydrophobic groups are exposed to the aqueous phase, the protein loses solubility. Other effects of denaturation include altered water-binding capacity; potential loss of biological activity; increased viscosity of the fluid; and the protein is more susceptible to enzymes (proteases).

What Makes a Food Scientist or a Chef?

Posted on:August 28, 2013

Many trends were discussed during presentations, on the exhibit floor and during social events at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologist (IFT) convention held June in Chicago.  Hot topics of conversation included how to increase interest in food science careers and also who can lay claim to being a food scientist. I consider myself a food scientist. I earned a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota’s Food Science & Nutrition Department, spent a number of years in R&D and QC with food processors and then moved to publishing where I wrote primarily about ingredient technology.

Colleges and universities tend to graduate far more students with home economics/human ecology or nutrition degrees than they do formally degreed food scientists…sometimes in the order of five or 10 to one. Food science degrees are less favored, despite often resulting in higher paid jobs.  One simple reason was offered by a food science professor who asked then answered his own question. “Why aren’t there more food scientists? …because it’s HARD!” (I’ll comment more about food science degrees in a bit.)

I tried to think of similar careers where some try to claim a desirable title while skipping the time, money and hard work required to be truly competent and qualified in the area. There are many, but another food-related title comes to mind…that of “chef.”

The first definition of a chef as offered by Merriam-Webster is simply a “skilled cook who manages a kitchen (as of a restaurant).”  That doesn’t differentiate between a fry cook with a year of experience and those highly trained and experienced chefs with entrenched careers in the area. I turned to Chef Michael Formichella, CMC, Chella Foods, and asked “how hard is it to become a chef?”

On Being a Chef

“To be honest it took me 20 years before I was accomplished enough to feel comfortable calling myself a chef,” says Formichella. A chef needs to be competent at responsibilities ranging from ordering meats, produce and other foodstuff, menu engineering, preparing simultaneously a large number of meals, managing a staff and dealing with high pressure situations. In addition, the ability to creative, sensory-pleasing dishes is central.

Formichella lectures often and notes that many aspire to be celebrity chefs earning $25,000 to $50,000 per event. However, “They are not prepared to spend two years of their lives in an accredited program only to come out and start ‘at the bottom of the pile.’  One then must go through the due diligence of being a line cook, butcher, sous chef, kitchen manager and so on, which allows you to learn your skill set,” says Formichella.  Formichella himself has a 40-year, multi-continent culinary career including working in 5-star restaurants. Click here to see a video clip of Chef Formichella on a Martha Stewart television segment.

“Last but not least, Formichella’s CMC (Certified Master Chef) certification from New Zealand not only provided a solid educational foundation, but gave him credibility. It attested to his intention to have a culinary career rather than “just something to do until he could ‘find a real job.’”

On Being a Food Scientist

Is the field of food scientist similar? When talking with friends during this year’s IFT, an undercurrent of frustration seemed to exist. One ingredient application scientist said “Just because you take classes in nutrition or biology and then a ‘food science for non-food scientists’ class, does not make you a food scientist.”  Another high profile and accomplished PhD from the University of Florida’s Food Science program laughed at the comment that a food science degree is hard. “Yes!” she exclaimed. When working on her own degree, she had been worried that she wouldn’t pass a required class in physical chemistry (“fondly” called PChem* in many fields), she was advised to audit it first and then take it again as a graded course.

Engineering, chemistry (organic, analytical, biochemistry anyone?), microbiology, physics and experimental design with statistics are just some of the courses required, particularly for advanced food science degrees. Food science programs also generally include more focused classes such as food engineering, “physical chemistry of foods” and nutrition. It doesn’t come easily.

When all is said and done, however, perhaps a key characteristic that well-qualified food scientists and chefs have in common is this. After a foundation of training, hard work and commitment; a life-long satisfactory career is the reward.

* Wikipedia definition:  ”Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of laws and concepts of physics.”

— Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Co-owner, Global Food Forums, Inc., owner of applied food science-based in-person conferences.

Proteins and Consumer Attitudes

Posted on:August 22, 2013
Rebounding Protein Claims

(% food and non-alcoholic beverage new product reports making stated claim; U.S. new product launches only) 

After declining over the past few years,
protein-fortification claims are starting to
rise again, in absolute terms and relative to
other major fortification claims.
Source: Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics
Go to to see a larger chart version.

The following is an excerpt from the Arla Foods Ingredients-sponsored “2013 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Report.” A Global Food Forums, Inc. event, this in-person program provided compelling information for developers of protein-enhanced foods, beverages and nutritional products. Click here for a copy of the report.

Proteins are the second-most plentiful substance in the body, after water, and are comprised of 20 different amino acids linked together in different combinations. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, therefore need to be consumed. Complete proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and cheese, provide all essential amino acids. Recommended amounts for protein vary by age, from 13g per day for young children to 56g per day for men beyond age 70, noted Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director for Datamonitor, in the keynote presentation “Muscling to the Top: Insights, Growth, and the Promise of Protein.”

“According to a 2012 IFIC survey, consumers see a tight connection between protein and muscle-building, and body-building supplements have helped promote this link,” Vierhile relayed. “Athletes and teens are seen as most likely to benefit from higher levels of protein, while the need for older consumers to consume protein to maintain muscle mass is not understood,” he added.

Consumers do not associate protein with weight gain, even though all sources of calories play an equal role. Instead, consumers view sugar, carbohydrates and fats as the primary drivers of weight gain. Protein’s healthy halo is attracting consumer attention. Interest in protein has grown quickly, and consumers are seeking out high-protein products. Some 33% of shoppers in the “Shopping for Health 2012” survey, conducted by Rodale Inc., Prevention magazine and the Food Marketing Institute, say protein content is of concern to them when they read product labels, according to Vierhile. Recently, a link between the consumption of a high-protein breakfast and appetite control has emerged; this may shift the focus on satiety-related products toward breakfast.

The popularity of plant protein sources appears to be rising. Data from SPINSscan Natural (52 weeks ending January 19, 2013) shows that nut butters and nuts are among the top-growing categories in natural supermarkets. Plant protein health links are becoming more overt; for example, Planter’s Nut-rition is touted as an “Energy Mix” for energy enhancement. Pea proteins could also be the next big thing, with more products using it and advertising the fact. Economics is likely playing a part in the popularity of plant protein relative to animal-based proteins, with low-income households, younger consumers, Hispanics and obese consumers all stating that protein is too expensive.

“Protein health claims had declined over the past few years but are rebounding,” Vierhile explained. Outside of meat substitutes, dairy products, like Greek yogurt, dominate the “high-protein” claims list, with breakfast foods rising, as well. Meat snacks are still a big trend, now reaching a new generation of consumers with innovative jerky products. SymphonyIRI data shows double-digit sales grown in both 2011 and 2012 for jerky. Vierhile profiled a number of significant new products, such as Archer Farms’ High Protein Cinnamon Cereal, Protein Ketchup, IPS Egg White Chips and ProYo High Protein Frozen Yogurt.

Marketing Protein Types
The big trend in protein right now may be plant proteins, but whey, while at times more expensive, has a huge advantage, since plant proteins are generally not as nutritionally complete. A big opportunity exists to educate consumers on the role of dairy proteins, Vierhile advised. The key is to get the message right. Knowing the protein source is vital, with consumers reading labels and wanting more details on the products they consume. For example, some whey-containing products promote that the whey is obtained from grass-fed cows, promising traceable milk while being free from hormones, like rBST and rBGH.

Vierhile predicted that local, artisan protein products could be one growth area; one such example is Wisconsin-based tera’swhey protein, made in small batches.
Another area of opportunity lies with whey protein from goat’s milk, which is said to be easier to digest for some people than whey from cow’s milk. And, concerns about food allergies and sensitivities could change the protein future market. Food allergies among young people rose 18% for the decade ended in 2007. What could be next: an emphasis on allergen-free protein?

Vierhile also said evidence is emerging that sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, can accurately predict future mortality in middle-aged and older adults. Protein consumption by older consumers is not where it should be in order to help delay the effects of sarcopenia. Packaged foods and beverages targeted to at-risk, older consumers are generally few and far between, yet 27% of seniors in the U.S. are not consuming the amount of protein they need to maintain health, he added. This, too, opens an area for growth.

With consumers gaining insights into the health benefits of proteins, and companies using proteins as a way to differentiate their products, the future is promising for this dietary component.

Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director for Datamonitor Consumer, can be contacted at +1.585.396.5128 or Followed him on Twitter at @TomVierhile. Download his data-filled presentation at

Taking the Pulse of Pulses

Posted on:January 24, 2013
What are pulses and legumes

Pulses are generally defined as the dried seeds of certain legume crops. The FAO recognizes 11 categories of pulses. Chart Source: Pulse Canada

Proteins, or rather the essential amino acids they contain, are fundamental nutrients for human survival. Proteins are obtained from plants, animals and even fungus (e.g. mushrooms) and algae.

Pulses are a subcategory of legumes. They are a primary source of proteins for much of the world’s population. The FAO estimates annual global pulse production of some 60 million metric tons (MT) per year. Due to their dehydrated state, pulses are key food sources in regions of the world where refrigeration is rare. Consumption has increased in developed economies due to their healthful nutritional profile and their ecological sustainability.

The FAO recognizes 11 primary pulse categories. They include Dry Beans (which is comprised of a large range of familiar products such as pinto, kidney and navy beans) to small categories such as Lablab purpureus. Some categories such as Vetches and Lupins are used primarily for animal feed.

According to an up-coming report by BEST VANTAGE Inc. , seven categories account for 98% of the world’s production of pulses as tracked by the FAO in 2010. Ranked by production volume, the seven categories are: Dry Beans; Chick Peas; Dry Peas; Cow Peas; Lentils; Broad or Fava Beans; and Pigeon Peas.  All but two (Cow Peas and Pidgeon Peas) are important trade commodities.

As food stables, pulses are ingrained in a country’s agricultural system and cuisines. While some statistics are predictable, there also have been rapid and unexpected changes. For example, India is the world’s largest producer of pulses with some 25% grown on Indian soil. However, with a large vegetarian population, India also consumes some 30% of the world’s global production.(1) In contrast, Canada has rapidly ascended to one of the world’s top producers and exporters of pulses and now accounts for approximately 35% of global pulse trade each year. In 2011, Canada exported a record 4.7MT of pulses worth nearly $2.7 billion.(2)  Africa’s Ethiopia is also one of the world’s larger producers and exporters of pulses. It ranked fourth in global exports of Broad/Fava beans in 2009 (even exporting a small amount to Canada in 2010!

While the word “pulse” is not familiar to most consumers, foods made from pulses are. In the U.S., from well-seasoned lentil or split pea soups to bean burritos or the skyrocketing consumption of hummus, pulses provide popular fare.

The BEST VANTAGE report will provide an overview of international uses of pulses. Just a miniscule sampling from other countries includes douchi (black bean sauce) in China, falafels (Chickpeas or Broad/Fava beans) in the Middle East, urad dal (spicy lentils cooked with kidney beans) in Pakistan and, of course, an expansive range of bean-based burritos, soups and stews in Latin American.

Beyond the expected savory-flavored main meals and side dishes, pulses can be found in creative dishes. Pulse foods are also markers of global migration through the millennia. There is the chickpea flour bread known as socca in France, farinata in Italy and faina in the Genoese dialect. This bread recipe migrated to Argentina where it also is called faina. Glass or cellophane noodles, made from mung bean extract, are traditional fare in many Asian countries. And, desserts and beverages are not to be left behind.

Azuki red beans are made into anman, a sweet bun dessert in China. Indonesia has gandasturi, a fried sweet bread from mung beans. In Thailand, colorful and novel luuk chupmarzipan is made from mung beans, sugar and coconuts.

Photo of colorful mung bean luk chup marzipan

Bean and pea pulses are the bases of desserts and even beverages in other countries. Thailand uses mung beans for a marzipan-like dessert called luuk chup.

With their critical nutritional profile including being a key source of protein and their traditional role in global cuisines, pulses will be a key topic in Global Food Forums, Inc.’s “Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar” April 10, 2013. Chef Charlie Baggs, executive chef and president of Charlie Baggs, Inc., will present the topic “Pulses: From Global Staples to On-trend Products.” Providing innovative insights and thoughtful considerations in how to work with these ingredients, Chef Baggs and crew will also be sampling foods for both the education and enjoyment of the attendees.

Please contact Dan Best at BEST VANTAGE Inc. if you are interested in the up-coming report. (1-847-714-9527 or


— Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, Inc., a conference organizer

Proteins on Fire!

Posted on:November 17, 2012
Photo of the word proteins with fire in the background
Information on food and beverage formulation issues as well as consumer trends will be covered at the April 10, 2013 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar near Chicago. The topic of proteins is on fire!

Sometimes you’re smart, sometimes lucky.

Many months ago my business partner, Peter Havens, and I reviewed emerging hot topics for a conference that would provide essential trend and formulation information.  Proteins came into sharp focus both as a central dietary component and as a source of a broad range of functional and nutritional ingredients.

As confirmation of the timeliness of our choice, we were able to gather an outstanding group of speakers (more on them in the coming months or see our program now by clicking through to our Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar website.

In March of this year, Dr. Elizabeth Sloan of Sloan Trends proclaimed proteins as “hot, hot, hot!” The following list of recent news items continues to validate that proteins are indeed on fire.  We believe our speakers, from General Mills to NIZO, Datamonitor to Chef Charlie Baggs and the product development firm International Food Network among others, will provide entertaining but also insightful and useful information for anyone in involved in food and beverage formulations to product marketing.


  • The global market for soy and milk protein ingredients (alone) is predicted to be over US$ 13 billion in 2018, growing at a CAGR of over 6% from 2013 to 2018. — Transparency Market Research
  • In the U.S., protein enhanced smoothies at the Top 500 limited-service restaurants grew 123% in the last two years. – September 2012, Technomic
  • Once again a study found that that a high-protein diet may aid in weight loss. In a review of 24 trials with 1,063 people found on average over 12 weeks, people on a high-protein diet lost about 1.8 extra pounds… and more body fat…than those assigned to a standard-protein diet. – October, 2012,  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • Spending by Indians on milk, eggs, fish and meat doubled in the five years up to 2009-10 to US$38 billion. — Crisil Research
    Yet, as the market research firm Innova points out “…can [protein] supply really meet [demand] as the world’s population moves beyond the 7 billion mark. New and existing sources of protein are being viewed on sustainability and health ground with the developments in soy, wheat, lupin and…chickpeas.”
  • “Protein Overdrive” is one of the top 10 trends for 2013. – Innova Market Research 

I think we were very lucky in our choice…and maybe a little smart. (And as always, all comments and advice is appreciated.)

We invite you to join our Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar in the Chicago area next April 10, 2013.

— Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Managing Partner, Content Development, Global Food Forums, Inc. a conference provider.


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