A new fibre and protein ingredient from okara, a by-product of soy milk production, is to make its debut on the European stage at HIE next week, targeting healthy bakery and flour-based products.
Galam acquired the ingredient, known as Okara, as part of a recent acquisition of another Israeli firm. The business is now known as NutriGal.
Nava Almog, general manager of NutriGal, said that Okara has previously had just one client in Israel; it is used in a cereal product made by Telma, a Unilever brand. But as well as building more support in its domestic market, the company is expecting it to garner considerable attention from European manufacturers of baked goods, bars, cereals and pasta.
The indications are that it is tapping into an area of keen interest, as the bakery sector has made strides towards healthier products and incorporation of functional ingredients. A report published by Euromonitor in May this year, called 'Bakery Products: top trends for 2008 and beyond’, predicted that this trend will continue to dominate and result in yet more scope for innovation.
By the end of 2009, NutriGal aims for Okara to be used by at least two major manufacturers of pasta and flakes. In the mid-term, it plans to target the US market in about two years from now.
Okara in action
The ingredient actually takes its name from the soy milk by-product: okara is the high-protein, high-fibre insoluble pulp that remains when the soy milk is extracted from the beans.
Traditionally okara has been sold by the soy milk processors as animal feed, but Almog said there is recognition that it is “such a good product, it is a shame.”
NutriGal is now buying it up from the processors, and transforming it into an ingredient that retains “all the good stuff” and can be used to partly replace flour.
As well as being rich in fibre and protein, Okara is billed as being low in fat and high in other helpful nutrients, like calcium, iron and riboflavin. It also has high water retention, which is useful for pasta; the absorption means that 100g of pasta is bigger in volume, and therefore has fewer calories.
The amount of regular flour that Okara can replace depends on the application, but NutriGal is offering technological support. Almog added: “The texture is similar to a normal product. You can’t tell you are eating soy.”
Competition in the market
In China soy milk is traditionally made in the home; the okara that is left over may then be used on home baking.
While there are a few other companies selling okara on a commercial basis, Almog has not come across another using the same kind of process to refine it, which preserves the maximum level of helpful nutrients and is low in fat.
While NutriGal is currently refining okara only in Israel, it plans to be able to do this in other countries, too.
It is also aiming to expand the number of soy milk processors with which it works.
Galam/NutriGal will be exhibiting at HIE, stand E007