Friday, December 8, 2023

Dairy Industry Countdown to 2024: Let’s make it the “Year of Proteins from Dairy Ingredients”


Tired of reading about food forecasts for 2024? I am, but it’s part of my job. The key takeaways from the countless lists I have reviewed the past few weeks, in my opinion, is that consumers have become more educated regarding where their food comes from, and this is not going away. Clean label, minimally processed, planet friendly and high protein content are the four attributes fueling food and beverage purchase. Dairy ingredients deliver on all four. It’s up to formulators and marketers to learn how to put dairy ingredients—namely dairy proteins—to work. After all, putting dairy back into dairy makes sense.   

Innova Market Insights data indicates that supplement and sports nutrition launches with dairy-based proteins are gaining ground. From July 2021 to July 2023, dairy-based proteins in new product development experienced a 13% year-over-year growth rate. More than half of these launches were in the form of sports powders. Whey protein isolate was the leading ingredient, but casein protein is the frontrunner of innovation. 

Dairy ingredients have application in all types of foods and beverages, including dairy foods. They are a great tool to boost protein content. 

The most common eating pattern or diet in the U.S. is high protein, according to the 2023 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council. Protein is also the most sought out ingredient in food and beverage purchases. 

Choice of protein is an important marketing tool of a product’s “power.” Unfortunately, marketers are limited in their efforts to communicate this because regulatory authorities have put the topic of protein quality and availability on the backburner. It’s time to bring it back into the conversation. 

Currently the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is used to assess the quality all protein. This score is an adjustment for the quality of the protein. It is based on the types and amounts of amino acids in the food as well as the overall digestibility. The PDCAAS values range from 0.0 to 1.0, where values are truncated to a maximum score of 1.00, which cows milk, casein, whey, eggs and soy protein all possess. Most plant protein sources have much lower values. 

The Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS), on the other hand, is preferred by many nutrition authorities as a means to do a better job of communicating overall digestibility. The DIAAS analysis enables the differentiation of protein sources by their ability to supply amino acids for use by the human body. It also demonstrates the higher bioavailability of dairy proteins when compared to plant-based protein sources. Let’s focus on making DIAAS a reality in 2024.  

Currently the % Daily Value for protein is determined using PDCAAS. A yogurt containing 10 grams of milk protein may make an “excellent source of protein” claim. A cultured vegan product with 10 grams of protein from peas and nuts most likely only qualifies for a “good source of protein” claim, and when doing so, should not flag 10 grams of protein per serving, as this is misleading. When making or implying any protein content claim, FDA requires the inclusion of the % Daily Value. 

If DIAAS was put into place, products containing whey proteins would be able to better communicate their value. Unfortunately, it’s been 10 years since a report from the Expert Consultation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) recommended using DIAAS, yet it has not been implemented. 

Photo source: QNT Life
Data in the FAO report showed whole milk powder to have a DIAAS score of 1.22, far superior to the DIAAS score of 0.64 for peas and 0.40 for wheat. When compared to the highest refined soy isolate, dairy protein DIAAS scores were 10% to 30% higher. 

Dairy proteins have an exceptionally high DIAAS score because of the presence of branched-chain amino acids, which help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Each dairy protein has more branched-chain amino acids than egg, meat, soy and wheat proteins. Whey protein, specifically, is seen as higher quality because of the presence of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid accountable for muscle synthesis. 

It’s time to start calling out “dairy protein content” or making reference to the inclusion of milk proteins. Other product categories are doing it, such as these MILKii Protein Bars that debuted in Belgium in October.

And, by putting dairy ingredients back into dairy, protein content may get a boost. Labels may often get cleaned up, as dairy ingredients may assist with various functionalities, including stabilization, emulsification and even flavor enhancement. 

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