Q: What's new in whey proteins?

A: Today's food formulators can select from a universe of specialty whey proteins that have been modified or processed to provide unique functional and nutritional properties in food systems.

For example, Monroe, Wis.-based Glanbia Nutritionals produces Thermax® 690, a whey protein that stands up to heat. This whey protein isolate is stable in low-acid aseptic and retort beverages at protein concentrations of 10% or more. While typical whey proteins might gel and precipitate, this ingredient yields a clear beverage that looks very appealing in glass or clear plastic containers.

Food manufacturers that want to increase the per-serving protein level in high-heat-pasteurized drinks or foods can also look to Leprino Foods, Denver. Leprino's new Temp Pro™ 80 is ideal for beverages, having been formulated to withstand the high heat of ultra-high-temperature (UHT) and retort processes previously limited to other, more expensive proteins and isolates. This ingredient also works well in other UHT-processed foods such as puddings, sauces and yogurts, as well as in high-acid foods and beverages.

Some whey processors have developed new ingredients by adjusting the levels of fat, protein or carbohydrates in traditional ingredients. Agri-Mark/Cabot, Montpelier, Vt., now offers a whey protein concentrate with 85% protein on a dry basis (WPC85) and slightly lower lactose than a typical WPC80. This ingredient is ideal for use in nutrition bars and allows bar manufacturers to optimize protein.

Another option for food manufacturers is whey proteins that are higher in phospholipid content, including active nutritional components such as immunoglobulins, sphingolipids and conjugated linoleic acid. Trega Foods, Little Chute, Wis., has developed a higher-phospholipid product, Isochill™ 6000, which is well suited for emulsified and processed foods, frozen desserts, cheeses and sauces, and aerosol sprays in which creaminess and soft texture are important. These valuable whey phospholipids are isolated by selective filtration techniques, and a proprietary cold process preserves both phospholipids and minor whey proteins.

Some suppliers have learned to control the viscosity and water-binding properties of whey proteins. Grande Bravo® 510 is an extension to the line of functional whey proteins developed by Grande Custom Ingredients Group, Lomira, Wis., specifically for use in cheese sauces. This whey ingredient also provides increased freeze/thaw stability.

Another whey protein product that derives functionality through partial denaturation is Hilmar Ingredients 8610 whey protein concentrate. The Hilmar, Calif.-based company reports that this ingredient can be used in lower-carbohydrate baking to replace flour, as it binds more water and results in an improved dough consistency.

Enzymatic hydrolysis is a proprietary process that cleaves protein bonds at selected sites to yield specialty whey peptides. Protient Inc., St. Paul, Minn., produces Protient Prolong 90™, a 90% protein powder that does not draw moisture away from other ingredients in a nutrition bar. The result is a bar with a soft consistency that is maintained throughout the bar's shelflife.

Hydrolyzed whey proteins may also offer nutritional advantages in the area of cardiovascular health, according to Davisco Foods, Eden Prairie, Minn., which offers a line of BioZate® hydrolyzed whey proteins. The company says the ingredient offers documented improvements in multiple cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure and cholesterol. BioZate has food emulsification and foaming properties, which may be beneficial in nutritional beverages or shakes.

Several of the dairy research centers supported by America's dairy farmers are exploring the properties of native proteins. These soluble proteins are separated from milk before cheesemaking. Initial research shows that these native proteins may offer improved solubility and heat stability. Further research is exploring whether isolating these proteins in their native state will minimize potential changes to their bioactive properties.