Food Safety Magazine (FSM) spoke with Ratna Mukherjee, Ph.D., of DuPont Nutrition & Health on current trends of soy protein applications for the food industry. Here are her thoughts:

FSM: What quality attributes are improved by the addition of soy protein and to which products is soy generally added?

MUKHERJEE: Soy protein offers a variety of nutritional attributes when added to certain products. For example, soy protein can help with satiety which can help support weight management. There are also cardiovascular benefits to soy protein. Soy protein is low in fat and saturated fat, and has zero cholesterol, which is important to consider when including it in various food products. Twenty-five grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, has been shown to decrease total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

Since soy is very versatile, it lends itself well to a variety of applications and products including beverages, bars, processed meats, seafood and meat alternatives. Due to the rising popularity of protein in the past year, soy has also been utilized in food products such cereal, snacks and baked goods. Dependent on the food application, use of protein can improve mouthfeel/texture, water-holding capacity and/or flavor profile of the product.

FSM: Please describe the process that is used to add soy to such products.

MUKHERJEE: When any protein is added to a food product, certain parameters must be considered including pH, viscosity, flavor and cost. Soy protein’s reaction to other ingredients like carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals should also be considered when determining if soy protein is a good option for particular food products. It is important for soy protein to be properly dispersed and hydrated when added to liquid products. If done appropriately, soy can be a key value-added component to the formulation.

FSM: What drives a company to add soy to its products?

MUKHERJEE: There is a strong demand for protein-rich applications as consumers are making the connection that protein helps promote weight management and satiety. Soy, in particular soy protein, is a versatile ingredient that blends well among a variety of applications, and is the only widely available high quality source of lean vegetable protein. It also contains all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s requirements. Additionally, there is not the supply and price volatility with soy that you see with other protein sources.

FSM: Are there any limitations for the use of soy in food products or any food types that are not compatible with its use?

MUKHERJEE: In most food applications, soy protein can be used at the same levels that you would utilize other protein sources. There are a wide variety of soy protein options that allow for use in a wide variety of applications. There is not just one isolated soy protein. Dependent on the SKU, soy protein is modified to allow for differences in viscosity, density, color, flavor, particle size and other key analytical and functional parameters. This allows the product development a large amount of formulation flex.

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