Satisfying today’s sophisticated vegetarians means food must not only be meatless, but have high-quality sensory characteristics as well.
Interest in the use of soy proteins has soared since the FDA approved the health claim linking soy protein and heart health in 2000. Additionally, the interest in vegetarian meals continues to expand.

Meat analog sales are estimated to have reached $600 million annually, and are growing at 20-25% yearly, according to ADM (Decatur, Ill.) manufacturer of a complete line of soy-based ingredients. The meat analog market is one of the fast-growing areas of the food industry, with soy-based meat alternatives dominating the market. The soy foods sector has grown at 10 times the rate of conventional foods, according to the company.

Texture and Soy Proteins

Today's vegetarians are more sophisticated and demanding. Not only do they want their foods to not have meat in them, they also want them to have great taste and texture.

Textured soy proteins (TSPs) often are found in meatless entrées and are used to provide texture and mouthfeel. Two commonly used forms are textured soy flour and TSP concentrate; less common are textured soy isolates that are available for use with special formulation challenges. All forms are heat and retort stable, and come in a variety of particle sizes and colors, including irregular granules, flakes, chunks and large strips. They also can be combined with other vegetable proteins, such as wheat gluten, to provide a slightly chewier texture.

Once hydrated, the TSPs have a meat-like texture and mouthfeel. Typically, textured soy flour (TSF) holds two times its weight in water, while textured soy concentrate (TSC) holds approximately three times its weight, explains Cheryl Borders, manager, soy food applications. TSP can be incorporated into products in a variety of ways, and the method may depend upon the application. For mixes that will be hydrated by the end user, the TSP will be dry blended with the other ingredients. Other applications may require the TSP to be partially or fully hydrated before adding it to the other ingredients in the matrix. The production process will be influenced by how and where the TSPs are incorporated. The developer can consult his supplier as to recommended procedures.

In addition to their use in meat analogs, TSPs are found in a wide variety of food products. They have been used for years to extend coarse ground meat products which can be formed into items such as patties or meatballs. The extended coarse ground product also may be utilized in canned chili and stews or used as pizza topping, to name a few applications. TSF, which has been enrobed with flavor, has been a staple on salad bars as an imitation bacon bit. TSPs also are found in protein bars and breakfast cereals to provide texture, mouthfeel and protein fortification. When combined with traditional cereal grains, the soy protein ingredient can help to attain “a better overall protein quality.”

Dedicated Vegetarian Facility

To address the burgeoning vegetarian foods market, ADM recently inaugurated a 100,000-sq.-ft. plant, dedicated solely to the production and packaging of vegetarian foods. The plant is completely free of meat and dairy foods, and features state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. The plant adheres to the most rigorous HACCP standards and is certified kosher, pareve and halal.

For more information:
Bob Rasmus at 217-451-7453
ADM Natural Health and Nutrition Write in 400

Sidebar: Various Vegetarians

There are hardfast and “temporary” vegetarians. Some eat fish, eggs and dairy products, and some do not. Here is a breakdown of the five major groups.

Vegan—They avoid all foods of animal origin.
Lacto—This group eats no meat, but will ingest dairy products. Ovo—While these people will eat no animal flesh, they will eat eggs. Lacto-ovo—This group eats no animals, but does include eggs and dairy products in their diets. Pesco—These vegetarians eat eggs, dairy foods and fish.