Thursday, September 21, 2017

Health and Wellness Beverage Trends: The Role of Dairy-Derived Ingredients

Miles. Miles is the three-year old boy who likes to visit me with his nanny at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo, where I volunteer every Tuesday. (That’s why I did not make it to the International Whey Conference on Tuesday. It was wonderful to visit with so many of you on Monday.)

Miles ran up to me at 10:55am on Tuesday at the dairy barn, afraid that he missed the cow feeding program that ends at 11:00am. I kept it open a little longer for him because Wynnd, Janey, Flascha and Lucia were exceptionally hungry after their milking a half hour earlier, despite the unseasonably warm temperature. While he ran back and forth with handfuls of alfalfa-enriched hay, he informed me that he now drinks cows milk.

I was confused so I queried his nanny. She explained that until Miles had spent time with me this summer at the zoo, his parents only bought a milk alternative, and for no particular reason other than personal choice. After I taught Miles all about milking, feeding and even how cows have one stomach with four chambers, he had been requesting cows milk. And now he gets it at home.

As you can imagine, this brought tears of joy to my eyes. It confirmed what I say and write often. Marketers need to tell the story of milk. Consumers will drink it up.

Here’s more promising news about dairy.

Protein content claims continue to influence retail food purchases as well as dining orders in establishments that list nutrition information. The Nielsen Company conducted research in early 2017 using its U.S. Homescan network and its Canada Panelviews database to better understand what consumers’ preferences are when it comes to protein selection. Both Americans and Canadians identified meat, eggs and dairy as their top-three protein sources, with seafood and legumes/nuts/seeds falling to fourth and fifth place, respectively.

The Nielsen survey also found that 83% of Canadians and 80% of Americans plan to eat the same amount of dairy, with an impressive 9% and 10%, respectively, planning on eating more. (Hopefully Miles converted his parents!)

This presents opportunities for processors and marketers to keep dairy proteins relevant through innovation. One of the ways to do that is to put dairy proteins back into dairy foods. Another options is to use dairy proteins as a base for functional beverages.

For example, Australian nutritional supplement company International Protein is debuting the Ready to Grow (R.T.G.) range of premium protein drinks. There are three drinks in all—Chocolate, Coffee and Vanilla—for, of course, those on the go who need a quick protein boost. Each 375-milliliter drink contains a massive 30 grams of protein derived from casein, whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. The drink is also loaded with 10 essential vitamins and minerals and only 90 calories per serving. It’s liquid protein, liquid dairy protein.

The fact is that dairy foods are naturally loaded with nutrients and possess a fresh-from-the-farm image to complement many of today’s consumers’ dietary objectives, including weight management/satiation, clean-label/simple ingredients and local/authentic recipes. With all that, value-added products continue to gain traction as shoppers seek out foods and beverages that deliver above and beyond daily fuel. They crave flavor, nutrient density and convenience. And dairy foods can deliver. They can especially be designed to deliver the protein consumers want.

The Nielsen data shows that half of Americans and Canadians have protein at every meal. About a third agree that source matters. Make sure they know that dairy makes protein sense.

Advancements in ingredient technologies make on-trend innovations easier to develop. This was apparent at The International Whey Conference, which took place this past week in Chicago. Numerous developments in dairy fractionation and their applications—even beyond fresh and frozen dairy foods--were discussed.

For example, scientists from Abbott Laboratories explored research showing how partially hydrolyzed dairy proteins can be added to infant formula powders enhanced with brain-health long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are highly susceptible to oxidation, with inappropriate storage and poor packaging accelerating breakdown. This causes the fatty acids to oxidize, producing undesirable fishy notes and potentially harmful byproducts.

Chemically derived antioxidants can be used; however, in efforts to produce cleaner label products, naturally sourced options are being explored. Because it makes sense to put dairy back into dairy, researchers investigated the use of various dairy ingredients. They found that casein hydrolysate, as well as whey protein hydrolysate, functioned as effective antioxidants while also working synergistically with lecithin to ensure proper dispersion.

Researchers from Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Germany shared results from an investigation of using enzymes to improve the value of acid whey produced during the straining of Greek yogurt. The researchers identified that the Cryptococcus laurentii DSM27153 enzyme can convert lactose, the major constituent in acid whey, to galactooligosaccharide, a polysaccharide with prebiotic properties. With this conversion, acid whey goes from being a byproduct to the raw material for a value-added ingredient with application back into dairy foods and other foods and beverages.

Scientists from Technical University of Munich in Germany shared pilot-scale results from a study to develop a preservation process for fluid whey concentrate, a viscous protein produced by membrane filtration. This is an energy-efficient alternative to whey powder produced by evaporation and spray drying. The challenge with whey concentrate is its water activity, which is too high to prevent microbial growth and therefore requires heat treatment for preservation. This negatively impacts the whey proteins in the whey concentrate, as they are very heat sensitive and will denature in extreme heat.

The researchers developed a preservation process consisting of sterile filtration and thermal treatment to yield whey concentrate with high whey protein nativity of about 90% as well as an extended shelf life of about four months. Large scale experiments showed potential of this energy-efficient process in industrial manufacturing.

Scientists from School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork in Ireland presented findings on how including permeate enhances the solubility of plant proteins in foods and beverages. Their study explored the interactions between milk permeate and quinoa-based protein. Initial findings were positive and may transfer to whey permeate and other plant protein ingredients, such as those derived from beans, chia, hemp and pea.   

Specialty dairy proteins, both casein and whey, are being explored by processors in all dairy applications for their ability to increase protein content while stabilizing systems. This is particularly true in beverages, including refuel milks and meal replacements. Dairy proteins are high-quality proteins, also known as complete proteins, which means they are in a readily digestible form that can be utilized by the body. They contain all of the dietary essential amino acids in quantities that correspond to human requirements.

Innovators should understand that proteins have different rates of digestion. This contributes to the unique function that an individual protein has on the body. For example, many health and wellness beverages combine a faster-digesting protein such as whey protein with a slower-release protein such as casein in order to deliver sustained energy.

Get on board. Put dairy proteins back into dairy foods to make sure dairy is a consideration when protein intake is a priority.

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