Delivering an Ideal Sensory Profile in Plant-Based Protein Beverages

The plant-based milk category experienced significant growth over the last year. New SPINS retail sales data released by the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association shows that US dollar sales of plant-based milk grew 20 percent in 2020. On top of this, the research also shows that dollar sales of plant-based ready-to-drink beverages grew 12 percent that same year, with more than 41 million units of plant-based ready-to-drink beverages sold.

While health concerns are driving consumers to plant-based protein, taste is still a primary driver of purchase decisions – and plant-based options on the market to date aren’t living up to expectations. Consumers simply want more plant-based drink options that do not sacrifice taste and texture. Very often, plant-based protein ingredients impart off-notes, a vegetal aftertaste, and chalky, unpleasant textures.

However, we’re proud to share two pea protein innovations from Merit Functional Foods that change that notion: Peazazz® and Peazac® are here to solve the formulation challenges other plant-based protein ingredients have historically faced.

Recently, Merit conducted a third-party research study where a trained panel was used to identify sensory descriptors for pea protein. Quantitative descriptive analysis was used to measure the intensity of these flavor and taste attributes for Merit’s pea protein portfolio as well as other pea proteins in the market.

This objective sensory data was then paired with data collected in consumer testing, where the hedonic scores (liking) of the proteins based on a range of attributes was collected. Findings indicated that Merit’s lineup of pea proteins was preferred over other pea proteins in the market on taste, likeability, and texture.

Through our water based, hexane free proprietary extraction and purification processes, Merit produces pea protein ingredients with excellent solubility and neutral flavor profiles, retaining delicious taste and creamy texture while eliminating the need for bitter masking agents. As the marketplace grows for products formulated with plant protein, Merit’s lineup of pea proteins can help brands differentiate from their competition by delivering an incredible, repeat-purchase-worthy sensory experience. What’s more is that Merit sources, and manufactures its non-GMO and organic pea proteins locally in Canada – ensuring that you are getting the highest quality pea proteins in the market, with the desirable taste and texture that formulators are seeking.

Ready-to-Drink and Fortified Beverages

High protein is also trending in ready-to-drink beverages as more consumers factor convenience into their purchase decisions. Whether it’s a post-workout smoothie, a weight loss shake, or even a bottled cappuccino, RTD beverage brands are increasingly featuring protein as part of their value propositions. Peazazz® , a high-purity pea protein from Merit, exemplifies attributes that improve consumers’ experience of RTD beverages.

The neutral flavor of Peazazz® is compatible with nearly any ready-to-drink beverage formulation, as well as plant-based dairy alternatives such as plant milks and coffee creamers. The 90% protein ingredient has a clean taste and offers premium solubility. As the purest pea protein on the market today, formulators need not worry about sedimentation settling to the bottom of the bottle.

Ready-to-Mix Powders

In dry powder mixes, such as for sports nutrition or meal replacement shakes, plant-based protein ingredients often introduce unappetizing flavors and gritty textures. Fortunately, our Peazac® and Peazazz® pea proteins can help solve these challenges.

Peazac® is a creamier, better-tasting pea protein evaluated by a trained panel and validated by consumer research. It’s well suited as a 1:1 replacement for pea proteins currently on the market today and is ideal for common fortification levels in performance beverages. Its low flavor intensity, and high solubility, translates to a smooth, full body for beverages. Higher solubility allows formulators to achieve a creamier mouthfeel without the need for gums or hydrocolloids that add cost or turn off consumers. The 80% protein ingredient complements nearly any flavor system and performs exceptionally well in ready-to-mix drink powders. The moderate viscosity and high solubility of Peazac® ensures that dry mixes dissolve into water to make a consistent, silky texture.

Peazazz® is a new 90% pea protein delivering enhanced functionality and performance, with the highest nutritional (PDCAAS) value of any pea protein currently on the market. Due to its unique composition, this novel plant protein is ideal in beverage applications where more functionality is required. The high purity of Peazazz® offers more protein in less volume for RTM beverages applications and is an efficient complement in a formulators quest to achieve targeted PDCAAS values. When used in combination with our Puratein® canola protein it’s possible to achieve a PDCAAS of 1.0 in both RTM and RTD beverages.

High protein beverages are also a good delivery vehicle for functional ingredients. Protein drinks fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, BCAAs, or MCT oil appeal to other consumer health trends and lifestyles, such as keto and anti-inflammatory diets. Today’s convenience-driven consumer will appreciate being able to meet their targeted nutrition needs with their daily protein-enhanced drink. Both Peazazz® and Peazac® provide neutral taste and smooth textures to fortified beverages, minimizing the need for formulators to use thickeners and masking agents in these applications while maintaining a desirable mouthfeel that consumers are looking for.

A Better Plant Protein for Beverages – pure and simple.

With demand rising for plant-based protein sources, consumers seek out applications that can deliver the muscle-building macronutrient without compromising taste. The brands that can be depended upon to provide great taste and texture in high-protein beverages are the brands that plant-based protein consumers will seek out again and again. In Peazazz® and Peazac® , formulators now have options for enhancing consumers’ sensory experience while boosting the protein content of applications.

Interested in learning more about formulating with a pure, clean-tasting pea protein? Please reach out or request a sample – we would love to discuss.

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