Whey is the Way

Whey is the Way
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As the general public becomes increasingly more health conscious, both consumers and producers will look into ways to improve the nutritional value of their food while maintaining the appearance and flavor of the original product. One such innovation that may maintain this delicate balance is the incorporation of whey protein into various food products. Without compromising flavor, texture or overall liking, whey protein is a functional ingredient.
First, WPC has exceptional waterbinding/hydration properties. As a result, WPC can minimize water loss in food products, maintaining the mouthfeel and texture of the food while mitigating cost. WPC can act as an emulsifier, upholding the stability of the mixture of water and fat in the product. The heat induced stable gels that WPC can form also contributes to the viscosity and structure of the food. In addition to its structural talents, WPC also affects both the flavor and appearance of the food products. WPCs can enhance the browning reactions in foods providing them with an appetizing golden brown appearance while enhancing the current flavor the product without adding any additional “off” flavors. Taken together these properties give WPCs numerous potential applications in a variety of food products such as baked goods, processed meats, and low fat or reduced fat foods.

Baked Goods

Numerous applications for WPCs have been found within baked goods. The properties of WPC enable it to enhance the quality of baked goods as well as supplement, if not outright replace, some ingredients. Generally speaking whey based elements can enhance the flavor, improve the browning of the crust, augment the structure of the crumb, improve the toasting qualities, and increase the shelf life of numerous baked goods. Moreover, WPCs can provide nutritional benefits to baked goods. This is achieved both by (whole or partially) replacing less nutritionally beneficial ingredients as well as fortifying both protein and calcium content. These augments can be seen to varying degrees in the different types of baked goods.
In breads, WPC can produce a softer bread, while maintaining crumb structure. Cakes can greatly benefit from the addition of WPCs as well. The WPCs can partially or completely replace whole eggs and egg whites as well as fats in certain recipes yet still retain the moistness of the original cake. As a result, a low fat cake can be produced that still looks and tastes like a normal cake. Similarly, WPCs can replace eggs and fat in cookie recipes. These WPC cookies have improved color, chewiness, and thickness over the traditional cookies that utilize fat and eggs. Even pie crusts can be enhanced with whey. The proteins in whey allow for better emulsification of shortening in the crust. With better emulsification, less shortening is needed to create the pie crust. Whey enhanced pie crusts feature reduced fat yet keep the tender, flaky crust of the original.
Furthermore, some reports indicate that whey enhanced pie crusts look and taste better than ordinary pie crusts. In addition to standard baked goods, bakery mixes and bakery glazes also benefit from whey protein. Bakery mixes utilize WPC to increase water binding, solubility, moisture retention, and reduce fat in the product. Furthermore, the presence of WPCs improve the surface color of the mix. Bakery glazes made with whey products tend to be more microbiologically stable, resulting in longer lasting products. In addition to the increased shelf life, these glazes boast greater adhesion between the bread and its toppings such as crushed grains or seeds.

Processed Meats

Much like baked goods, processed meats can also benefit from the addition of whey proteins. The emulsification, browning, water binding, gelation, and flavor enhancing properties of WPC can all play crucial roles in their application to meats. However, there are other ways in which meats benefit from WPCs.
One such property would be adhesion. WPCs allow for better adhesion between meat particles. This helps to uphold the textures of processed meats like chicken nuggets or hot dogs. Also, better adhesion means better binding between meat and non-meat items such as batter or bread crumbs. Another WPC property that helps processed meats is solubility. Whey proteins are more soluble then other protein sources such as sodium caseinate and soy proteins. Whey proteins are highly soluble between a pH of 2-10 while sodium caseinate and soy proteins require a solution with a minimum pH 5 and pH 5.5 respectively. As such, whey proteins have greater flexibility with regard to what type of solutions can be used in processing meats. One last property of WPC is its ability to form edible films. Edible films are a thin layer of material that forms around the food. This film acts as a barrier to oils, moisture, oxygen and aromas. It helps preserve the meat while simultaneously having little to no impact on the meat’s flavor.
Due to these functional properties, WPCs can enhance a wide variety of meat and seafood products. Both whole meats and restructured meats benefit from WPC in a brine solution. Whole meats incorporating a whey protein, salt and polyphosphates brine solution has improved moistness and tenderness when cooked. A WPC brine solution improves the juiciness, flavor, firmness and slicing characteristics of restructured meats. Coarse ground meats (bratwurst, Polish sausage and Italian sausage to name a few) benefit from WPC gel formation as it improves moisture retention in the product. Comminuted meats (such as hot dogs and bologna) benefit from WPC’s emulsification properties. Additionally, WPC can be mixed in as non-meat protein, reducing cost of product while maintaining proper flavor and texture. Surimi (foods made of washed and minced fish tissue such as fish balls or imitation crab legs) make use of WPC’s gel-forming and water binding properties to improve the textural properties of these foods. Moreover, a mixture of water and whey proteins can be used to replace as much as 5% of the fish tissue in the product reducing overall cost while still maintaining the original texture. Even sauces and gravies can utilize whey proteins to enhance their features. WPC can improve the creaminess and texture of sauces and gravies in addition to improving opacity and viscosity.

Low Fat Applications

Beyond baked goods and meats, whey proteins also have great potential in low fat food applications. This is due to WPC’s ability to act as a fat mimetic. The various properties of WPCs (such as gelation, water binding and emulsification) allow it to act and mimic the desirable characteristics of fats without the negative qualities. When working in conjunction with its wide pH range and ability to act as a cost effective replacement or substitute to various ingredients, WPC can improve many qualities of low fat products such as reduced fat salad dressing, reduced fat soups and sauces, and low fat meat products. WPC can be used to mimic the visual characteristics of traditional salad dressings while preserving the texture and taste. WPC enhanced salad dressing additionally boasts an improved shelf life at a lower cost due to the supplement or substitution of egg yolk. Similar to salad dressings, reduced fat soups and sauces that utilize whey proteins preserve the look and feel of the initial product while sporting improved shelf life. The effects of WPC on low fat meats is similar to the general effects of WPC on processed meats. Excellent emulsification between meats and other ingredients in tandem with the water retention properties of WPC creates a low fat meat that taste quite comparable as the original. WPC also increases product yield in these meats due to the same water retention properties. As a result the WPC modified meat does not shrink as much in vacuum tumbling or injection based processing. Put together, the low fat meat will look and taste just as good if not better than the original meat product.

Processing Considerations
As it has been shown, whey proteins have a variety of applications in the areas of baked goods, processed meats, and low fat foods. Still there are areas where whey protein has more applications, such as sports drinks. Clearly whey protein has huge potential left to be discovered and developed. However there are several issues that must be considered when deciding to adapt whey proteins to new merchandise. First and foremost while whey proteins may be used to substitute certain ingredients in food process, they cannot be used as direct substitutes. As such, recipes will need to be adjusted to compensate. Baked goods provide excellent examples of this particular issue. Whey products have a lower water absorption rate than flour, so the amount of water needed in a recipe must be adjusted. The mixing time for dough must also be factored in, as it usually increases in whey modified breads. The baking time and temperatures of whey enhanced baked goods is another factor to consider, as whey based ingredients tend to brown up faster than traditional baking ingredients. Secondly, flavors must be considered. While most WPC configurations have little flavor, WPC34 has a slight dairy flavor that could affect the final product. Additionally, there are certain flavors that do bind to whey proteins, so it may be necessary to add more flavor to the food to compensate for flavor loss. A third and final consideration is the cost. While WPCs can be used to replace or supplement various ingredients, WPC itself can actually raise the cost and selling price of certain products such as low or reduced fat foods. Granted, this is balanced out by WPC’s ability to increase product yields and efficiency; thereby enabling the producer to better utilize current ingredients.

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