The need for healthier products on the marketplace is a trend that is here to stay, and more companies are looking for ways to reduce fat and cholesterol in their products or introduce healthier alternatives. Solae LLC capitalized on this desire when it developed a burger patty that was a combination of beef and an isolated soy protein. Through consumer analysis and product development, the company was able to take a product that initially met with a lukewarm response and created a product that tested as well as an all-beef patty.

At their seminar at the Worldwide Food Expo, Colleen Conley, senior group leader, sensory sciences, and Dr. Mac Orcutt of Solae detailed their studies showing how much consumers want healthier products. According to the company’s research, 72 percent of primary household shoppers would buy more burgers if they were healthier, and 68 percent are trying to cut back on red meat consumption. The company’s Healthy Griller patty initially launched in 2006 with a strong media buzz because of its reduced fat, caloric and cholesterol content, but the consumer results were neutral, saying that the burger didn’t have the same color, flavor or texture as an all-beef burger.

The optimization process involved looking into the world of burgers and determining exactly what burger characteristics consumers most favored. A flavor profile was developed and sent to four flavor houses, with each one attempting to create a “gold standard” flavor that can be applier to the Healthy Grillers. The texture was improved, using structured vegetable proteins to closely approximate that of a beef patty. An artificial color then had to be added to the mix, in order to create a patty that looked like an all-beef patty both in the raw and cooked state.

With an improved Healthy Griller patty, large-scale consumer tests showed that the four patty prototypes – one from each house – fared as well as an 80-percent lean beef patty. This success has led to other potential products, such as breakfast sausages and sport nutrition jerky nuggets.

“Consumers want healthier choices, but taste will always rule,” said Conley. A healthier product must deliver on its good-for-you promises, but there must be no compromise with taste.