For several years now, consumers, young and old, have had instant access to the World Wide Web and its content. Never before in history has such a quantity of information been available to inform consumers’ purchase decisions. As fast as electronic data can travel, ingredient and food reviews, as well as related news and science articles, are available to potential customers. One of these potential customers is the millennial generation, the nation’s largest living generation, surpassing the baby boomers. They are also the first “digital natives”—a generation brought up in the age of digital technology. As such, it is completely normal for them to use the Web to instantly research anything of interest. When investigating food products, millennials often ask: Where is it grown? How does it affect my health? And is it sustainable? Millennials tend to keep up with exercise trends and dedicate time and money into eating what they believe to be healthy. In addition, the millennials are beginning to reach their prime “purchase power” years. Their concerns and questions about food are reshaping the food sector.
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The high protein trend has been around for several years and shows no signs of plateauing. It is driven by scientific studies indicating a high protein diet curbs appetite, which helps curb weight gain, and slows lean muscle loss, especially in middle-age and older adults. In fact, in the article, “Protein: Why it’s so popular right now,” written in The Washington Post, 71 percent of consumers want more protein in their diet. This is partly due to the millennials. According to BakingBusiness.com article, “Millennials shake up snacking,”millennials matured in an era of concern over obesity and are naturally predisposed to choose healthier food options. Purchasing choices made by millennials have prompted retailers to increase high protein products.
As “gastronomy” has become familiar to consumers, they have been seeking out other sources of protein besides those from meat and dairy. Soy, peanut butter, quiona, chi, and hemp have been around for years. Lately, pulses have caught consumers’ attention as they are good for the environment and can serve as a gluten-free flour. (Pulses are types of leguminous crops that are harvested solely for the dried seed.) In fact, the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, bringing to light that most developing countries derive their main source of protein from a variety of pulses. Plant and pulse flour protein additions are the hot new bakery trend of 2017.
Pulses are available to the bakery industry as flours or powdered protein concentrates or isolates. When in the form of a flour, they are considered “variety flours.” Incorporating pulses into bread, cookies, or even pizza crusts not only increases the protein content but increases the available fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, pulses are not considered a complete protein. According to Margaret Hughes with Best Cooking Pulses in the article, “Pulse flours to the fore” for Food Business News, when incorporating pulse flour into a formulation with a cereal grain flour, roughly 80 percent of the flour component should be the cereal flour and 20 percent the pulse. Pulse protein concentrates or isolates are used around the 10 percent level.
Sunflower lecithin and oil have been used the past few years as “clean label alternatives.” Now, sunflower protein is becoming a plant protein alternative, especially since it is a complete protein. Sunflower protein is lower in lysine than soy; however, it is superior to most vegetable proteins in digestibility (90 percent). According to a 1979 article in Cereal Chemistry written by F. Sosulski and R. M. Mahmoud, wheat bread fortified with sunflower protein, ranked higher than soy-fortified bread when replacing 12 percent of the wheat flour; vital wheat gluten replaced 2 percent of the wheat flour.