• Unveiled at IFT20: Latest Insights Comparing Dairy and Plant Protein Processing

    By Rohit Kapoor July 23, 2020


    Have you ever wondered about how the processing steps of protein ingredients differ and what effect those steps have on sustainable production? If so, you might be surprised to learn how “green” dairy is. Findings from a new landscape survey comparing the commercial processing of 17 protein ingredients were unveiled on July 13 as part of the technical program of the virtual Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo, known as SHIFT20. The study – which was conducted by RTI Innovation Advisors and funded by the National Dairy Council – shed scientific light on how dairy proteins compare with plant and other protein sources when it comes to degree of processing and impact on environmental resources. This is especially critical at a time when sustainable food production is paramount to addressing the challenge of providing valuable nutrition to the growing global population.

    The study compared the current commercial processing methods for four dairy proteins and 13 alternative protein ingredients starting from post-harvest through to production of the finished dry protein powder.

    As a result, there were four key learnings:

    • Commercial processing of mainstream and emerging protein ingredients involves a variety of processing steps and techniques that vary based on source material, method and end-product produced.
    • Processing of plant proteins may require the use of processing aids beyond water such as solvents (e.g. hexane, ethanol and alcohol), salts, acids (e.g. 1-2 N HCL), caustic agents (e.g. 1-2 N NaOH), bases, etc.
    • During protein isolation/purification, non-protein co-products are produced which must be utilized or disposed.  Co-products of dairy protein processing tend to find more value-added uses than those of plant proteins.
    • U.S. dairy proteins may have a similar environmental impact to plant proteins when considered from the perspective of nutritional quality rather than according to the food’s raw weight or caloric content.

    What does this mean for food and beverage manufacturers?  The survey reaffirms that dairy proteins are clean/clear label friendly, help reduce food waste and can play a role in sustainable food formulations.

    According to data from Innova Market Insights, high protein food launches are on the rise.  Protein ingredients play an integral role in formulating food products as they provide nutrition, taste and functionality which are all key for a great consumer experience. Differences in protein nutritional quality between dairy and plant protein ingredients are well documented in the scientific literature, utilizing measures such as the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) and Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS).

    Co-authors of the presentation were Dr. Rohit Kapoor and Dr. Hari Meletharayil of the National Dairy Council and the content was presented at IFT20 by Kapoor (watch the presentation here).

    To learn more about U.S. dairy proteins and download a summary of the protein processing research, visit ThinkUSAdairy.org/IFT20.

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