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Maintaining Quality for Soy-Based Functional Beverages
by Annette Higgins
Functional beverages containing ingredients such as soy, vitamins, minerals, fruits, or vegetables have become popular because they appeal to consumers who are seeking specific health benefits. Examples include sports and performance drinks, energy drinks, ready to drink (RTD) teas, enhanced fruit drinks, and soy beverages. Functional drinks are marketed to promote heart and immune health, support joint health, promote satiety, and boost energy. Consumers “on the go” are looking for both convenience and healthy alternatives to carbonated soft drinks or calorie-laden fruit juices, and soy beverages are an ideal beverage alternative.
Using Soy Protein to Power Healthy Beverages
Extensive research underscores the health benefits of soy, including its role in reducing cardiovascular disease risk as part of a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat, as well as its muscle-building attributes. Soy is an excellent source of amino acid-rich dietary protein with a Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score of 1.0, making it a complete, high-quality protein. What makes soy unique is that it is the only widely available plant protein that is also considered a high-quality protein. Most plant proteins are lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids or have lower digestibility, making them lower in protein quality than soy. Years of clinical research also support the heart health benefits of soy, making it the only protein source with an FDA-approved health claim recognizing those benefits. Soy protein is often used because of its low-fat/low saturated fat/zero cholesterol profile and has long been known for its ability to improve blood cholesterol levels.
To maintain quality for soy-based functional beverages, food developers are creating beverage products using dry-blended soy protein isolate—an ingredient that optimizes physical performance, delivers healthy nutrition, and, most importantly, has a pleasing taste. Soy beverages, such as protein drinks and yogurt smoothies, are growing in popularity. Many of these are high-quality, healthy beverages positioned as nutritional options with sensory and taste experiences in their own right.
Demand for soy-based beverages providing both refreshment and a healthy lifestyle option has led to the development of a new generation of innovative soy ingredients. Whereas traditional soy isolates can have flavor and dispersion issues in certain applications, new agglomerated soy isolates (highly digestible sources of amino acids) offer improved functionality and nutritional profiles. Agglomerated soy isolates contain more than 90 percent protein, enabling the development of products to meet the FDA and Joint Health Claims Initiative health claims. Furthermore, their gelation, emulsification and viscosity-building properties are particularly useful in the creation of high-protein, dairy-like products.
With new ingredients available, we can expect further examples of product innovation in this sector with, for example, fresh, single-portion soy-based beverages that appeal to younger consumers who favor maximum convenience.
Ensuring Quality and Performance
Successful beverage products are based on flavor profile and appeal. One challenge that food developers face when developing dry-blended beverages is choosing the correct protein that easily disperses in cold or hot water. To meet consumer expectations, developers are searching for new techniques and sustainable ingredients that deliver flavorful profiles every time, and allow for innovative product creation. One available option is Supro PLUS, a dry blended soy/whey blend from the DuPont Danisco portfolio, which is highly dispersible, easily hydrated, and delivers a smooth, creamy texture that consumers are expecting from their functional beverages.
Stabilizers are critical for soy protein beverages because they prevent sedimentation, degradation, and turbidity while enhancing flavor. Stabilization of these protein blend products can also be challenging. Identifying the best product matrix using a combination of soy proteins and hydrocolloids is critical to maintaining a high-quality product over its intended shelf life. Without stabilizers beverages may taste gritty, flat, and cloudy. Selecting a supplier who has strong technical capabilities and formulation knowledge in high-protein beverages can be important to achieving formulation objectives and accelerating product development timelines.
With the demand for new soy-beverage products surging, ingredients that give beverages an improved nutritional profile, stable taste and textures, and longer-lasting freshness are particularly important for maintaining product quality. Clearly, the use of innovative, high-quality ingredients is crucial to the development of functional beverages, enabling the creation of products that are not only associated with health and well-being, but also address the primary function of a beverage: refreshment and enjoyment. The added value offered by novel soy ingredients, combined with good drinking quality, can help ensure success in a very competitive marketplace.
Higgins is the director of strategy and business development for protein solutions at DuPont Nutrition & Health. Reach her at 314-659-3484.
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