Protein into Snacks
By Jim Core
November 20, 2003
Whey proteins that are left over
after cheesemaking are a key ingredient in new nutritious snack foods produced
under a process developed by the Agricultural Research Service.
ARS recently filed a patent on the process, which uses a standard industry
device, called the twin screw extruder, to make crunchy snacks with the whey
proteins. The new snacks could help meet the demands of health-conscious
consumers. The ARS-developed technique already has drawn the interest of food
By using whey, the process boosts protein in expanded snacks--such as
breakfast cereals, corn puffs, cheese curls and energy bars--from the
traditional average of about 2 to 5 percent to 35 percent.
Most crunchy snacks are made from high-starch products such as corn flour,
according to Charles Onwulata, a food technologist at the ARS Eastern Regional
Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor,
Pa. An extruder, consisting of a long, heated barrel with two mixing screws
inside, cooks the starch as the screws mix and push it through the machine to
form the snack food. The crunchiness of the snack is determined by moisture
content and temperature as it leaves the extruder.
Onwulata and other researchers with the ERRC
Dairy Processing and Products Research
Unit wanted to improve the nutritional profile of puffed snack foods by
extruding corn flour with concentrated forms of whey.
At first, however, they found that the whey, in a form called whey protein
isolate (WPI), reduced the crunchiness, color and texture of extruded snack
foods. According to Onwulata, they were able to change the temperature and
moisture in the extruder, so that the WPI blended well with corn flour to make
Those interested in licensing this technology should contact ARS'
Office of Technology Transfer
at telephone number (301) 504-6905.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.