Protein used to occupy its quiet slot on the nutrition facts panel with little notice from the average consumer. Today its muscled its way to the package front and is no longer the sole province of weight lifters and professional athletes. Multiple studies confirm consumers are sold on protein-fortified foods and the benefits protein supplies to a healthy diet.
However, formulators are left with the puzzle of fitting extra protein into a food that still needs to achieve target goals for structure, taste, appearance and texture. Eggs already are considered a perfect protein and the standard against which all other proteins are measured. Equally as important egg ingredients supply critical functional properties, an acceptable flavor profile and also enjoy a high degree of familiarity and acceptance among consumers.
The perfect complement to fortification is functionality, but it’s a rare protein that can supply both. Egg ingredients provide more than 20 functional benefits to food applications, among them foaming and aeration, coagulation, gelation and shelf life extension. The proteins found in the whites, yolks or contained in whole egg ingredients are responsible for the majority of these functional attributes.
The fact that egg ingredients supply more than a single function multiplies the benefits to the formulator for a synergistic effect with other ingredients. A product’s mouthfeel and texture cannot be attributed to any single ingredient and outside factors such as time and temperature can affect this aspect of a food product. Other ingredients for example can create an emulsion but egg proteins help form stable emulsions that remain true through storage, shipping and shelf life. Egg proteins provide structure and coagulative properties to noodles that hold their shape when either held in a liquid or a high-moisture frozen environment while maintaining a desirable texture.
Egg ingredients contribute to gluten-free formulating, prevent staling in baked goods, control crystallization in frozen foods and help create impressive gels. And it is well-known that no other natural food ingredient can create as large a foam as egg whites. Egg whites, when whipped, create a foam six to eight times greater in volume than the original volume of the liquid, and this helps aerate baked products to provide structure, appearance, mouthfeel, texture and shelf life.
Egg yolk is well-known for emulsification properties primarily supplied by lecithin and low density lipoproteins. Proteins also aid in coagulation and help form gels. Protein functionality in egg white and egg yolk help create structure that also aids in extending shelf life due to entrapped moisture.
According to Elisa Maloberti, Director of Egg Product Marketing, “No other single protein ingredient can supply the multiple functions formulators can rely upon from egg proteins, not to mention the benefits derived from the wealth of vitamins and minerals contained in a whole egg.”
REAL eggs might possess one of the best reputations among proteins as well, when it comes to consumer sentiment.
A recent NPD study indicates 78 percent of consumers agree with the statement that protein contributes to a healthy diet. And when asked which protein they are consuming more today than in the past, 55 percent of respondents said they are eating more eggs.
Maloberti says this increased egg consumption bodes well for food formulators’ use of eggs when it comes to label concerns. “A consumer increasing their at-home consumption of eggs will be comfortable with eggs on a product label,” she says.
As a final note, the protein contained in REAL eggs is easily digestible and readily available. This helps create nutritious foods consumers will find filling, tasty and satisfying. “When formulators choose REAL eggs to use in food products, they’re choosing the whole protein package – functionality, flavor, familiarity and depending on usage levels, fortification.”