Learn to prototype and analyse benchtop protein bars 

Protein bars offer consumers nutritional benefits in a convenient, on-the-go format. But formulating these products for a satisfying taste experience over an extended shelf life brings challenges to product developers.  In this video, two of our experts provide formulation tips and guidance to deliver both superior eating experiences and protein content and show you a hands-on demonstration to help get you started developing your next consumer-winning nutrition bar. 

Our experts walk through a simple method for creating benchtop prototypes to hone your ideal formula more quickly.  Then, you'll learn how to measure for one of the most common causes of end of shelf life in protein bars — loss of moisture that results in a tough, undesirable texture.  Our team will show you how to track hardness, moisture content and water activity over the course of a bar's shelf life.  You'll then see a side-by-side comparison of how different protein and sweetener ingredients affect sensory quality, giving you the understanding you need to modify formulations to tailor the taste, texture and nutrition of your unique product. 

Protein bar demo

Protein bar demo


Hi, my name is Erin Nese and I’m a Technologist on the Technical Service team here at Ingredion. Hi, my name is Canan Ozer and I’m a Senior Technologist on the Global Pulse Applications team. We both support our Plant-Based Protein Platform and have experience formulating bars with different protein sources and other Ingredion ingredients.

Because of this, we’re here at the Global Idea Labs® in Bridgewater, NJ to help you understand the key considerations for protein bar recipe development.

We are going to walk through a protein bar production demo to show the benchtop process of making protein bars. We will be showing the process for a full and reduced sugar protein bar. Then we will compare protein bars made with different protein sources including, pea, rice, soy, and whey. We hope this demo helps you troubleshoot recipe bar development in your own labs.

Let’s get started with a demo for making protein bars on the benchtop.

To start off, we will combine the dry ingredients. First add cocoa powder to the mixer as a flavor agent. Other ingredients can be used depending on the flavor profile. Then, add VITESSENCE® Pulse 1803 Pea Protein Isolate to boost the protein content of the bars. Properties of the protein source will heavily influence the final product. Then add salt to help enhance to flavor of the bars. Then add cinnamon for flavor as well.

Mix dry ingredients in the stand mixer on low speed to combine, and then set them aside.

Now we can prep the binding syrup for the bars. The binding syrup will hold the bar together, provide sweetness, and control moisture. For this demo, we are showing a low sugar syrup for the protein bar recipe. First, we will add VERSASWEET® 1531 26 DE glucose syrup and will combine it with MALTISWEET® B Maltitol Syrup. Microwave these syrups together to improve flowability. Syrups should be around 85°F to improve processability.

In manufacturing, we typically see heated mixing bowls to help accomplish this. For the benchtop method, however, we chose to stick with microwaving the syrup for simplicity. Before adding to the stand mixer, we’re going to add glycerin to help control moisture in the bar. Then we’ll add sunflower oil to also control moisture and provide lubricity.

Mix these ingredients into the syrups and when done mixing, add to the stand mixer.

Now we can start to combine our dry ingredients with our binding syrup. It is important to have the syrups in the mixing bowl first and add dry ingredients to wet ingredients to easily disperse and help prevent clumping. Add the dry ingredients to the binding syrup while mixing. A dough will begin to form while mixing. When the dough is fully mixed, we can move on to molding the bars.

Transfer the dough to a bar mold. We used a small batch in this example, but you can calculate your batch size based on your evaluation plan. Depending on your plan, you can use bigger or smaller batches.

Roll out the dough to fit within the frame and ensure the dough is even while rolling. We use a smaller rolling pin first, then a larger one to help smooth it out.

Once rolled out to desired shape or form, remove the bar from the bar mold. Then you can cover the bar in parchment paper and package in a metalized bag or other appropriate packaging.

Allow the bars to age for at least 2 days at room temperature before cutting.

After aging, prep the bars for evaluation. Calculate how many bars you will need for evaluation.

In this case, we’re doing water activity, moisture analysis, texture analysis, and sensory evaluation.

To begin analysis, we must cut bars so that we have enough samples for the water activity meter, moisture analyzer, and texture analyzer.

First, trim the edges of the bars. For demonstration purposes, we didn’t use a ruler to measure exact bar size, but make sure you are cutting evenly, which is important for consistency

For water activity, we use the AQUALAB 4TE Dew Point Water Activity Meter. To measure the protein bars, you can either cut the bar into small pieces or use a food processor to break up the bars for accurate readings on the water activity meter.

Place the sample in a sample cup, completely covering the bottom of the cup, if possible.

Close the chamber lid and move the lever to the read position. This will start the reading. Repeat the measurement and take average water activity.

For moisture analysis, again, cut the bar into small pieces or use a food processor to break up the bars for accurate results. We use Sartorius MA35 Moisture Analyzer. Tare the balance and place 5 g sample on the foil boat. Close the moisture analyzer and wait for the reading. Repeat the measurement and take average moisture percentage.

For texture analysis, we need 2 full protein bars. We are using the penetration test method for this evaluation using the TA.XT Plus Texture Analyzer.

Place the samples centrally under the probe and then start the penetration test. Run the test 5 times on different parts of the bar. Repeat the test on the second protein bar and average the results to determine the firmness.

After evaluating the bars, we can note differences among the bars made with different protein sources.

While developing protein bars, we should consider protein properties such as source of protein, water activity, moisture %, water holding capacity, oil holding capacity, and solubility.

These properties directly impact the processability, appearance, hardness/texture, and shelf-life.

We compared 2 different pea protein isolates, a blend of pea protein isolate and rice protein isolate, soy protein isolate, and 2 different whey protein isolates.

For example, if we take a look at the pea protein isolates, Pea-2 has a lower particle size and higher protein content compared to Pea-1. This resulted in a harder protein bar with a crumbly texture. If we look at the whey protein isolates, which are from 2 different suppliers, we can conclude that whey protein properties might change from supplier to supplier, which is going to impact the final product. Note the color differences between Whey-1 and Whey-2.

While different protein sources impact the final product, changing other ingredients in the recipe will have an impact as well.

When changing ingredients such as syrups, you need to consider the interactions of ingredients.

When we look at bars made with full sugar syrups, we see differences from bars made with low sugar syrups. There are differences in texture. For example, the full sugar bars are much softer.

We also see stickiness during processing with the full sugar syrups, which may require additional heating for better processability. And we see oil-off in full sugar bars, especially for Pea-2. Based on functionality testing, Pea-2 has a lower oil holding capacity, which could be why we see this.

Overall, from this demo, we learned about the benchtop process of making protein bars, the basics of protein bar analysis, and how the ingredient selection of proteins and sweeteners is going to affect the properties of the final bar product, such as texture and appearance.

Thank you for joining us today. If you have any questions, we will answer them during the Q&A session. If you cannot make it to the Q&A session, you can reach out to us directly with the contact information provided. We hope to see you there!

Erin Nese

Erin Nese is a Senior Technologist on Ingredion’s commercial innovation acceleration team and has been with the company for 4 years. Erin spends most of her time working with customers or in the lab developing prototype formulations, especially using plant-based ingredients. She works on a variety of applications, including bakery, snacks, savory, confectionery, and more. Erin holds a B.S. in Food Science from Delaware Valley University and is pursuing an M.B.S in Global Food Technology & Innovation from Rutgers University.

Canan Ozer

Canan Ozer is a Senior Food Technologist at Ingredion on the global dairy and plant-protein applications team. She has been with the company since 2016, focusing on plant protein application development in categories such as bakery, snacks, alternative dairy, and confectionery. Her responsibilities include leading projects to evaluate new ingredients and supporting post-launch product qualification. Canan currently holds a M.S. in Biotechnology from Kean University, and a B.S. in Biology from Anatolia University, Turkey.