ARS recently filed a patent on the process, which they believe will help meet the demands of the calorie conscious consumer. The organisation claims that food companies are already showing an interest.
Whey protein is a pure, natural, high quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs on a daily basis and is very easy to digest. By using whey, the process boosts protein content in a variety of expanded snacks, such as breakfast cereals, corn puffs, cheese curls and energy bars- to a maximum of 35 per cent.
Most snacks are made crunchy by their high-starch ingredients such as corn flour, according to Charles Onwulata, a food technologist at ARS. The organisation claims that this is no longer necessary, as their new process allows the dictation of a variety of nutritional factors and does not simply rely on the moisture and heat to determine consistency.
Onwulata and other teams of researchers wanted to re-define the nutritional profile of puffed snack foods by extruding corn flour with concentrated forms of whey.
At first however, the whey , in a form called whey protein isolate (WPI), significantly reduced the crunchiness, colour and texture of extruded snack foods. After further research, Onwulata found that they were able to change the temperature and moisture in such a way that blended the corn flour with the WPI to make crunchier snacks.
The ARS are the USDA's chief scientific researching agency, and are currently undertaking over 1,200 research projects employing in excess of 8,000 staff including 2,100 scientists.