Jun 5,  2017

Protein: Health & Wellness, Alternative Sources, and Innovation - FONA International


Whey & Soy Alternatives

Soy and whey have been the leading sources of protein used in market products, however, each has come under scrutiny for the presence of GMOs, level of processing and incompatibility with free-from and vegan diets. While still in high demand, they are deterring health-conscious consumers who are seeking cleaner, simpler foods. 



Pea protein is an allergen-free soy and whey alternative whose use has increased dramatically in recent years. The number of North American food launches containing pea protein soared by more than 660% between Jan. 2012 and Dec. 2016 (28 products to 213). 

  • Pea Protein in Pizza: Pea protein works well in bread products, and we see MuscleFood’s high (pea) protein pizzas hitting the UK market with more than 60 grams of protein. Mintel reports that one in five US pizza eaters consider high protein content when purchasing a pizza, so this could be something of interest for US food manufacturers.
  • Pea Protein for Baking: UK company Protein Pow launched a pea protein cooking mix, providing new opportunities for consumers to incorporate protein more easily and evenly into their diets. The mix is comprised of plain protein powder, coconut flour, gluten-free oats, organic vanilla and coconut sugar. The mix is positioned as “the world’s first blend of ingredients that allows you to make your own healthy and delicious protein bars in under two minutes - no cooking or baking involved. You can also eat it raw - as porridge! And use it as flour to make protein pancakes, cookies, cakes – and more!”
  • Pea Protein in Nut Milk: In April 2016, Ripple Foods launched a range of plant-based, dairy-free milks that uses a neutral-tasting yellow pea base. It is a head-turning product in the dairy-free milk category because it provides a level of protein you don’t find in most non-dairy milks. Whereas almond milk typically contains just 1g of protein per cup, Ripple delivers 8 grams of protein per 8oz serving, which is basically the same as cow’s milk. In addition to the protein similarities, Ripple milks are also said to be closer in flavor to cows’ milk than most soy and nut milks. Because of this, it is positioned as having more uses than plant-based drinks with more distinct or sharp flavors.  Ripple Milks are free from dairy, lactose, nut, gluten and GMO, and contains 30% less sugar than chocolate milk, 50% more calcium than milk, 8g protein per serving and 32mg DHA omega-3s. The 100% plant-based and vegan product is made with hand-selected high quality yellow peas, which are said to be high in protein, rich in vitamins and minerals and low in sodium. 


As consumers strive to reduce their meat intake but still consume protein, the popularity of plant-based meat-substitutes has risen. Finnish company Gold & Green has launched Pulled Oats featuring oat protein. Oats are accepted by consumers as a healthy and wholesome food, and they may have an edge over soy protein if declared as GMO-free.



Lentein is a sustainable, non-GMO plant-based protein with an amino acid profile comparable to whey with high levels of calcium and other nutrients. It has more essential and branch chain amino acids than any other plant protein. It is a green powder reportedly a success in chips, crackers, snack-mixes, bars and cereal clusters, in addition to protein shakes, sports drinks or meal replacements. The Lentein website states: “This incredible protein-packed plant powder has the capability to positively impact both an individual’s nutrition and the world’s food supply.”



Insects have been receiving attention as an alternative high protein source that that are also high in fat and essential amino acids. Crickets and other insects are more environmentally friendly since they can be raised on less land and emit fewer greenhouse gases than traditional livestock. Many countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe are already ahead of the game, with an estimated 2 billion people consuming insects as part of their regular diets, according to Food Navigator. But a “significant minority” of US (27%) and UK (26%) consumers are ready to jump on the insect train and eat products made with ingredients like cricket flour. In China, however, 52% are interested. 


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