SoyLink powder tech patent sparks new applications

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Functional foods Soy Soy protein

Soy-powder maker SoyLink has a new US patent for its proprietary
technology - a manufacturing process the Iowa-based company says
will expand current uses for soy in functional foods and beverages.

The patent includes methods for removing bean flavour from soybeans and milling them to what SoyLink claims is the smallest particle size commercially available in the industry.

The implications of such technology are potentially large due to soy's importance as a healthy ingredient and crop within the wider context of the growing market for functional foods.

A subsidiary of the ethanol-producing Broin Companies, SoyLink posits that soy flours have run into problems in manufacturing soymilk and other dairy replacements because of the bean flavor and chalky texture they can cause.

The company claims to have addressed both of these challenges with its proprietary technology - protected by the patent entitled "Deflavored vegetable powders, methods of making them, and systems for vegetable milling"​ - by removing objectionable flavor and milling the powders to less than 30 microns.

"SoyLink sees this as the technology of the future for soy processing operations,"​ SoyLink vice president of research and operations Noel Rudie said of the patented process.

SoyLink claims the small particle size of its powders will particularly benefit soy beverage manufacturers because it allows for use of the whole bean powder and all its nutritional value. However, the proprietary powders can also be used in tofu, pasta, baked products, soynut butter, nutrition bars, and other applications requiring either a deflavoring technology or small particle size.

"This is truly a win-win situation,"​ said Rudie. "Because we produce a whole bean product, the consumer gets soy milk with all of the benefits of soy including natural soy fiber."

The whole soybean nutritional profile SoyLink claims its powders have refers to high protein and fiber composition.

SoyLink says with its technology it has incorporated what is frequently left as waste during soy powder processes and therefore brought about higher yields and increased nutritional characteristics. Insoluble soy pulp, or okara, is conventionally filtered out in the process of manufacturing soy powders.

With soybeans being the largest oilseed crop in the world, there is likely room for the ingredient to diversify its uses. According to market analyst Soyatech, isolated soy proteins are used in many food applications - from functional foods and dietary supplements, to meat extension, meat and dairy alternatives, noodles and soups - and are worth over $2.5bn.

As functional foods themselves continue to gain popularity the soy ingredient category and associated processing technologies such as SoyLink's appear to have a valid market opportunity. Fortified and functional foods sales in the US accounted for $6bn in 2002 and rose to $6.2bn by 2005 - with beverages in this category seeing almost 60 percent growth - according to Euromonitor International.

SoyLink's powders also come in organic and non-GMO versions.

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