High-protein food and drinks are in high demand, and at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo, dairy experts rolled out their latest prototypes showing how high protein can be integrated in today’s hottest food and drink trends.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC; Arlington, VA) and whey-ingredients supplier Arla Foods Ingredients (Viby J, Denmark) each sampled innovative, high-protein beverages.
Arla showcased its Lacprodan Hydro.clear ingredient, “a mildly hydrolyzed, acidified whey protein specially developed for crystal-clear beverages.” At IFT, the company served a clear protein-water prototype, with Lacprodan Hydro.clear contributing 2% protein content.
Ulrik Pedersen, Arla’s general manager, North America, said that clear protein drinks are now mainstream and being sold in club stores, for instance. Gym goers aren’t the only purchasers of clear, high-protein drinks anymore, he added, noting that high-protein drinks are also being purchased by everyday “active nutrition” shoppers looking for protein-rich food and drinks.
“It’s not so easy to make [a high-protein beverage] clear,” Pedersen went on to explain. He said that Arla’s ingredient stands out for both its taste and clarity. “If you look around the market, you’ll see that others are doing this, but [their ingredients are] not as clear and the flavor profile is different. If you compare our drink to water, it’s pretty much there. It’s very hard to get it that clear.”
At USDEC’s IFT booth, the group showcased how trending food and beverage concepts can also accommodate high protein content. In the beverage category, USDEC offered product prototypes including a Milk & Honey Bedtime Beverage and a Whey Protein Cherry Switchel drink.
The Milk & Honey Bedtime Beverage was described as a “calming chia and honey-infused beverage” designed to be consumed warm or cold before bedtime. Its high-protein content—20 g of protein per 8-oz serving—came from the drink’s reduced-fat milk (which also contributes calcium and magnesium), milk protein isolate (which provides emulsification, foaming and whipping, and heat-stability characteristics, as well as protein and nutrients), and micellar casein concentrate (a high-quality, heat-stable protein that also allows formulators to adjust texture/creaminess as well as viscosity).
“We’re promoting the protein quality with this beverage,” said Terri Rexroat, USDEC’s vice president, U.S. trade services, global marketing, at IFT. “It can be made as a shelf-stable beverage or as a refrigerated beverage. There’s a lot of flexibility with this formula.” And, she pointed out, despite the extremely high protein content, the drink retained a pleasant flavor and mouthfeel minus any chalkiness.
The Whey Protein Cherry Switchel drink USDEC sampled was a high-protein take on the centuries-old switchel beverage, a vinegar-and-ginger drink that’s increasingly trendy today. Each serving of the 8-oz drink provided 11 g of protein courtesy of whey protein isolate. “Because this is a juice kind of beverage, it’s got a little bit of a lower pH, and that’s why we use whey protein, which offers better stability and also helps you make a clearer beverage so it’s not going to give you that sort of milky appearance,” Rexroat explained. In addition, the whey protein isolate has a neutral flavor that limits the need for flavor maskers, the group pointed out.
Both Arla Foods and USDEC also unveiled on-trend bar prototypes. Arla showcased its brand-new Nutrilac PB-8420 whey protein ingredient specifically designed for high-protein nutrition bars. Whereas high-protein bars can often harden over the course of an extended shelf life, Arla says that Nutrilac PB-8420 ensures that high-protein bars remain chewy and soft for 12 months or more in ambient storage conditions.
“One of the challenges with protein bars is that when you go high protein, bars get rock hard very easily because you have a high protein content and low moisture,” explained Arla’s Pedersen. The apple-and-protein sports bar prototype the company sampled at IFT contained 28% protein.
Meanwhile, USDEC sampled a Frozen Matcha Dairy Bar whose Greek yogurt and milk protein isolate matcha-flavored filling packed a 15-g dose of protein from milk protein isolate. “This is a frozen treat that’s meant to be better than an ice cream bar from a health standpoint, but it’s also very slow melting,” Rexroat said.
“We’re promoting [this prototype] for breakfast or snacks, but especially for breakfast,” she added. “That’s where people are notably falling down on their protein consumption. Unless you’re eating eggs or a bowl of cereal with milk, you’re not getting a lot of protein. People who are eating baked goods, toast, and muffins aren’t getting a lot of protein, so this is something that’s portable, convenient, super healthy, tastes good, and not loaded with fat or calories. So it’s something that we feel could really meet a growing breakfast trend for handheld sandwiches, but in this case, a sweet rather than a savory.”
USDEC’s final IFT prototype was not a bar, but rather a reduced-sodium high-protein udon soup whose protein-rich noodles contained 11 g of protein per serving courtesy of whey protein concentrate. In addition, the whey permeate used in the broth’s reduced-sodium seasoning helped to provide a salty flavor when in fact the broth contained no salt at all. “If you look at the formula, there’s not actually any added salt,” Rexroat said. “All of the saltiness is coming from the permeate. In some other cases, depending on the application, you can use permeate to just reduce the sodium chloride that you’d be adding. It’s generally about a 10:1 ratio, so you’d use 10 g of permeate to replace 1 g of salt.”
USDEC pointed out that all of its prototypes are available for commercialization. “If someone wanted to take these exact formulas and commercialize it, they could do that. But it’s mainly meant to be a springboard for whatever works for what’s on their mind and what their priorities are” when working with dairy protein, Rexroat said.