Protein-rich beverages gain popularity

More and more health-savvy consumers are choosing high-protein beverages containing whey protein isolate (WPI). As its popularity surges, the high protein content of WPI and ease of application in new product development give it the potential to propel itself into the mainstream marketplace.

Mads Dyrvig
Mads Dyrvig Head of Sales Development, Health & Performance Nutrition, Arla Foods Ingredients

Protein beverages go mainstream
Many modern consumers see the value in convenient, well-balanced nutrition to support their active lifestyles and are looking for healthier beverage choices, too. But this quest for healthier, easy-to-drink products doesn’t mean they are willing to sacrifice taste, mouthfeel and visual appeal. And this sets high expectations for the future of protein-rich beverages.

It is no secret that whey is a complete protein , including all the essential amino acids – ones that the body itself cannot produce – in amounts that exceed the daily recommended intake. In addition to the impressive nutritional offering, whey protein isolate (WPI) is the top performer when it comes to taste, look, mouthfeel and higher protein content.

No longer constrained to the realm of those who consider the gym a second home, protein supplements and product enrichment have gone mainstream, and the demand for beverages that provide energy replenishment, facilitate recovery and encourage muscle-building now spreads across a wide range of health-conscious consumers. The demand for high-quality whey protein is increasing as a result of this market shift and WPI can go a long way to help the food industry meet this demand.

A clear trend
WPI is the new black in the world of whey protein and rightfully so. With its ability to be incorporated into crystal-clear beverages, it can provide the answer to high expectations about product appearance, and its clean taste fulfils the flavour (or lack of flavour) requirement.

This capability is a far cry from the early days of sports nutrition where bodybuilders happily mixed raw eggs into cloudy, lumpy protein drinks to get the extra protein they were after. Making a beverage palatable and pleasant wasn’t a priority, as they were willing to make big flavour sacrifices to achieve their nutritional goals. But, as awareness of the benefits of more protein spreads, concerns about indulging the taste buds while satisfying nutritional needs increases, too.

From WPC to WPI
The Codex for protein products defines WPI as comprising at least 90% protein, whereas WPC normally has 80% protein content. So WPI is produced by removing sugars (lactose) and fats from WPC by filtration or ion transfer, yielding higher protein content, as well as lower overall sugar and fat. In fact, some WPI formulations have almost no sugar at all, making it easy to respond to consumer demands for lower-sugar products.

In addition to the higher protein content per serving for WPI compared with WPC, the consistency of the former when mixed with liquid is a big win for consumers. The mouth-feel of WPI is unlike anything consumers have come to expect – there’s no milky feeling, just a water-like texture that seems quite natural to the drinker, with no bitter aftertaste.

Gone are the days where gym lovers and endurance athletes are the only ones choosing WPI as a nutritional supplement. The average health-conscious consumer has turned WPI into a mainstream, highly sought-after product.

The new product development possibilities with WPI give the food industry ample opportunities to create an abundance of high protein product options for mindful consumers. The doors are wide open for the food industry and for the future of WPI.

This blog contains material and information intended for B2B customers, suppliers and distributors, and is not intended as information to the final consumers.