Snack bars provide a convenient and portable way to deliver nutrition and meet a variety of consumer needs. The snack bar category includes granola/muesli bars, breakfast bars, energy and sports bars, and fruit bars. The entire category grew by 5.4% from 2007-2008 and is worth an estimated $4.3 billion in U.S. sales, according to Euromonitor.

Originally, high-protein bars were developed for the special demands of elite athletes and weight-lifters, but everyday consumers are showing increased interest. Although recent product developments have led to more acceptable, enhanced-protein nutrition bars, delivering a desirable flavor and shelflife still can be technically challenging. Luckily, ingredient companies are providing improved options that address these issues.

Milk proteins are one of nature’s richest sources of essential amino acids and are an important component of most high-protein bars. For athletes, whey is the favored protein, because it is the highest natural source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). BCAAs have been shown to increase muscle catabolism and help build muscle, even during weight loss.

Common whey ingredients for bars include whey protein isolates and hydrolysates. Unfortunately, the success of many whey ingredients in bars is restricted by processing and palatability concerns, including hardening and chewiness. Calcium caseinates, milk protein isolates and milk protein hydrolysates are other frequently used dairy ingredients. Each ingredient has its pros and cons, including flavor, texture, shelflife, processability and cost. Formulators optimize by blending multiple protein sources, although palatability and shelflife often continue to be a problem. All bars tend to harden over time. Possible mechanisms include moisture redistribution into protein particles; protein aggregation; Maillard reactions that form polymers; sugar crystallization; and glass transition shifts.

Fonterra, a leader in functional dairy proteins, has launched the PowerProtein™ line of ingredients to address high-protein bar formulation issues. Fonterra bars and snacking technical manager Rachel Marshall says, “These proprietary ingredients are designed to cost effectively deliver the benefits offered by traditional dairy protein ingredients, without the limitations.” The range includes a whey protein concentrate (WPC), two milk protein concentrates (MPCs) and dairy protein crisps. Marshall continues, “It is important to note that all MPCs and WPCs are not equal in terms of functionality. Ingredient functionality can be modified to produce different results in the end application, and standard versions will generally not perform well.”

For example, PowerProtein 515, a whey protein concentrate, allows higher levels of whey protein to be used in a bar, without the issues experienced with many whey ingredients. It has the texture softening benefits of whey protein hydrolysate, with a very clean flavor.

PowerProteins 4857 and 4861 are both proprietary milk protein concentrates. PowerProtein 4857 has the processability benefits of calcium caseinate, but its use results in a softer texture over time, with a very clean flavor (see chart). PowerProtein 4861 behaves similarly to some milk protein isolates; has a clean flavor; and helps to build texture in bar formulations where this is needed, such as in high-carbohydrate energy bars.

PowerProtein600 are clean-flavored dairy protein crisps that can be added as inclusions in bars, providing protein and crunch, with the added benefit of reduced hardening over time.

Ingredients with improved functionality, such as PowerProteins, provide new opportunities for bar manufacturers to cost efficiently reformulate existing lines with improved flavor, texture or shelflife, or to launch new, great-tasting protein

-- Matt Hutchinson, Contributing Editor

For more information:
Fonterra (USA) Inc. • Rosemont, Ill.
Rachel Marshall • 847-928-1939 •