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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
At IFT 2016, dairy experts spoke about how the high-protein trend needs to extend to consumers young and old.
No one knows better than the dairy industry what a boon the high-protein trend has been. Protein is king today, whether in sports nutrition or satiety, bars or yogurt, and plant or dairy sources. Now, the dairy industry is urging food and beverage firms to think broader and to tailor high-protein products to consumers both young and old.
At July’s Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, Arla Foods Ingredients (Viby J, Denmark) rolled out its new “Change Your Body Age” campaign. “We can’t change our birthday, but we can change our body age,” explained Mirna Maldonado, Arla account manager, Mexico and Central America.
The campaign focuses on the 50+ age demographic, which in the United States represents 32% of the total population, the company says. These consumers not only benefit from the increased muscle mass, bone density, and strength, and reduced body fat mass, that whey proteins and milk minerals provide, but senior shoppers also have the buying power to purchase products like high-protein food and drinks. As Arla points out, the “50+ are, and will remain, the most powerful consumers in the marketplace. They receive $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income in the U.S.”
As such, food formulators should aim to tailor high-protein goods specifically to senior shoppers. At its IFT booth, Arla distributed prototypes of an “instantized protein coffee,” with the goal of getting consumers, including seniors, to ingest more protein in the morning, when protein intake isn’t typically high.
“What we see is that it is very hard for people in general, not just the 50+ group, to get enough protein during the day,” said Maldonado. “Everyone eats a steak at night, but during breakfast and lunch, not so many proteins. So the challenge is to find a way to get people to eat more protein, especially in the morning when it’s so hard. You might get an egg, you might get some Greek yogurt, but you now can also have this instantized cup of cold coffee that has the same amount of calcium as in a glass of milk and that has 30 g of protein in it.”
At its IFT booth, the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC), representative of big-name dairy operatives nationwide, shared prototypes of a savory yogurt barley soup containing milk protein concentrate and whey permeate for a total protein content of 13 g per serving.
“With this prototype, we’re targeting aging consumers,” said Mary Wilcox, vice president, business development, for the MidWest Dairy Association, noting informal data showing that soup is a staple food source for this age group. Wilcox said that because seniors often have trouble swallowing, soup is an easily accessible way for seniors to ingest more protein. In addition, she added, the whey permeate in the soup helps reduce sodium levels compared to conventional condensed soup-and sodium reduction is often a target of the aging.
That same soup can also cater to younger consumers who often eat on the go, Wilcox added. In fact, she said, as more consumers turn to snacking over full-blown meals-“snacks are just mini meals throughout the day,” she said-creating high-protein snacks can help these consumers still hit their protein targets even as they skip meals. For these consumers, protein’s attraction is the role it plays in helping to maintain body weight, improve satiety, and build muscle mass for sports.
With snacks in mind, the USDEC booth featured protein-packed samosas, formulated with Greek yogurt, whey protein, milk permeate, and butter. The samosas contained protein in both the crust and the filling, for a total of 11 g per serving.
“We’re looking at handheld snacking and utilizing protein for satiety throughout the day. This is an easy snack to consume; you just toast it in the oven,” Wilcox said. The samosas could even be paired with another prototype the group sampled-a clean-label mango chutney cottage cheese dip, itself a great protein source thanks to cottage cheese and milk protein isolate. “Imagine if you were dipping your samosa in it; you’d have a pretty high-protein snack right there,” Wilcox said.
At Arla’s booth, the company sampled protein crisps that also targeted the snacks market. “Almost half of [each crisp] is protein, so that means you get more satiety with fewer crisps, basically,” said Maldonado.
The overall goal, Wilcox said, “is really about trying to find ways to put protein into everyday foods. So maybe it’s a pudding. I really think soup is going to be an up-and-comer just because of aging populations.”
These groups also took care to highlight advantages of dairy proteins over plant proteins, which “have emerged as a competitor,” said Moises Torres-Gonzalez, PhD, director of nutrition research for the National Dairy Council.
“We should try to educate consumers that it’s not only a matter of high-protein snacks or high-protein foods; it’s about high-quality protein foods. In that regard, it’s where dairy protein has superiority over other sources,” he said, pointing out that “dairy proteins are complete proteins, contain all the essential amino acids, and are the richest source of leucine, which is important for maintaining muscle mass and stimulating muscle protein synthesis.”
“Therefore,” he said, “by consuming dairy proteins, you can consume less food but have all the benefits of protein.”
Nutritional Outlook magazine