Whey out? Could cricket protein rival whey as a sports nutrition and functional drinks ingredient?

By Millette Burgos

- Last updated on GMT

It's not just cricket...researchers are increasingly assessing a range of insects for their protein potential.  ©iStock
It's not just cricket...researchers are increasingly assessing a range of insects for their protein potential. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition functional beverage beverage

Crickets could become a functional protein ingredient to rival casein and whey in nutritional beverages and sports drinks, researchers suggest.

This comes after academics employed controlled enzymatic hydrolysis to create cricket protein hydrolysates (CPH) with improved functionality.

“CPH is a suitable choice for therapeutic food fortification where casein and whey protein are commonly used,” ​researchers from the Department of Food Science at Purdue University wrote.

Reseachers examined nine trial conditions of thawed and processed tropical banded crickets tested for different enzyme-substrate concentrations and hydrolysis time on protein functionality.

The enzymatic modification stabilised CPH and enhanced its emulsion capacity.

The research also found that CPH provided more protein solubility over a wide pH range compared with the non-hydrolyzed control.

“The improved solubility of the hydrolysates makes them suitable for foods over a wide range of pH, highlighting the CPH’s applicability in acidic food systems, such as nutritional beverages and sports drinks,” ​said the researchers.

They added that CPH also displayed better emulsifying and foaming properties than unhydrolyzed cricket protein in a spectrum of low acid-foods.

Labelling issues

However, before manufacturers can even think of incorporating CPH into their food products, they need to address labelling issues of insect protein hydrolysates, said the researchers.

For example, the Food and Drug Administration in the US declares protein hydrolysates from fish, soy and milk as GRAS or generally recognised as safe.

“Further research is also needed in the characterization of CPH peptides, optimisation of functional properties, sensory evaluation, and establishing applications of these hydrolysates in food formulations,”​ wrote the researchers in the journal Food Chemistry​.

The research team believes that, for most Western consumers, insects could only become palatable if their protein is used as an ingredient, using methods such as those used in this study.

“Studies show that in typical western societies, consumers find insects more appealing when used as an ingredient to prepare foods with familiar flavours and textures. There is a higher willingness to eat processed insect products rather than whole insects,”​ they added.

Source: Food Chemistry

DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.11.138

“Functional properties of tropical banded cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) protein hydrolysates”

Authors: Felicia G. Hall, Owen G. Jones et al.

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