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Once relegated to a post-workout supplement for the most active consumers, instant protein beverages are now a staple meal replacement for consumers across all demographic categories.

Increased market reach means increased expectations

Now, when consumers reconstitute instant drinks, they have fairly high expectations. The powder mix needs to go into solution easily without forming lumps and reach full viscosity almost immediately. Once mixed into the liquid, any particulates that are present need to remain suspended until the beverage has been consumed.

From a textural perspective, consumers expect a pleasing and sometimes even decadent drinking experience. Stabilizers can contribute to that experience by making it possible for formulators to adjust texture attributes like viscosity, mouth coating and heaviness. In the case of fortified instant beverages where particulates like vitamin mineral blends, fiber, protein and other nutritional ingredients are present, certain stabilizers can reduce the awareness of particulates.

Designing instant protein drinks using texture

In instant protein beverages, the nutritional goals are often accomplished by fortifying the product with vitamin-mineral blends, fiber, protein selections and other nutritional ingredients. These ingredients increase particulate levels in the formulation and can be perceived by consumers who commonly use the terms “gritty” or “grainy” to describe this texture defect in the finished beverage.

Texture Attributes of Instant Protein Beverages
 Attribute Description Examples (low/high)
Viscosity Rate of flow per unit force: the force to draw between lips from spoon, and the rate of flow across tongue water vs sweetened condensed milk
Astringency The feeling on the tongue or other skin surfaces of the oral cavity described as puckering/dry and associated with tannins or alum yellow American cheese vs strong brewed tea
Awareness of Particulates Amount of grainy, gritty, or lumpy particles or other inclusions in the mass strained bananas baby food vs cream of wheat cereal
Mouth Coating Degree to which mouth surfaces are coated after swallowing or expectorating water dessert gel vs creamy peanut butter

Consumer demand for transparency

With broader appeal comes more interest in the ingredients used in the product and increased demands to meet specific labeling or nutritional requirements like non-GMO, organic, or high protein. For beverage formulators, this means balancing the need to maintain the positive texture attributes of the finished drink with the desire to improve the nutritional profile and, if the product also needs to be non-GMO, having fewer stabilizer options to choose from.

Functions of gums & ingredient systems in instant protein drinks

  • Suspend particulates
  • Stabilize proteins
  • Decrease awareness of particulates
  • Improve mouthfeel

Questions a Gum Guru® might ask when recommending a stabilizer for your beverage application

  • What are your label claims?
  • What functionality are you looking to achieve?
  • Do you have any particulates that need suspension?
  • Are you adding any protein to your beverage?
  • What is your desired viscosity?

Frequently asked question

Why am I detecting grittiness in my instant protein beverage?

There is likely protein in the beverage that is insoluble and detectable on the tongue upon drinking. The addition of the hydrocolloids masks this grit by coating the tongue and decreasing the awareness of particulates.

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