What’s Driving Dairy?

May 15, 2013

Q&A with the U.S. Dairy Export Council

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC; Arlington, VA) is a nonprofit, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers, and export traders. The Council was founded in 1995 by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), a farmer-funded marketing, promotion, and research organization.

USDEC joined Nutritional Outlook recently for a state-of-the-market chat.

How is the global market for whey and other dairy proteins growing?

Kristi Saitama, vice president, export marketing ingredients, USDEC: Export momentum for U.S. dairy ingredients and proteins remained strong in 2012, with whey protein concentrate (WPC) poised to shatter volume records and nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) tracking at or near record levels. Prospects are similarly positive for 2013, as prevailing global demand drivers continue to favor dairy ingredients.

Emerging market growth, which includes population and economic dynamics, is playing a major role. As incomes rise and lifestyles shift in populous emerging markets, dairy consumption will continue to rise as parents seek out dairy products as a staple for healthy child development. The pediatric milk formula and recombined milk segments in dairy-deficit emerging markets like China and Southeast Asia continue to offer bright prospects for U.S. dairy ingredient inputs such as whey proteins and value-added milk powders.

In addition, health and wellness trends are playing a major role. With lifestyle diseases and obesity incidence on the rise, manufacturers are motivated to innovate and deliver products meeting the discerning needs of health-conscious consumers.

With their ideal, dual advantages of functionality and nutrition-boosted by the ever-expanding body of published scientific research on health-U.S. whey proteins remain highly attractive to manufacturers. And with its world-class and ever-expanding portfolio of dairy ingredients that deliver taste, functionality, nutrition, and ample innovation opportunities, the United States is well positioned to meet this rising global demand.

Vikki Nicholson, senior vice president, global marketing, USDEC: Today’s U.S. consumers are looking for protein in their food and beverage products, according to The NPD Group: Functional Foods and Beverages, August 2012, as more than half of today’s U.S. consumers (56% of adults and 59% of teens) state that adding more protein to their diet is very or somewhat important.

As the food and beverage industry learns more about the many benefits of versatile dairy proteins like whey protein and milk protein, the door has opened wide-moving an ingredient previously only recognized by the weight-lifting crowd into mainstream consumer view and demand. Dairy protein ingredients provide ideal nutrition and application benefits for the functional food and beverage formulator to meet today’s demands.

Not only are we seeing increased use in the U.S. market, but demand for protein-in particular dairy protein-is accelerating across the globe as health and wellness agendas dominate the regulatory world and consumers are demanding more value from their food and beverage products.

What key characteristics would you say make whey an ideal protein source?

Nicholson: Complete proteins-those that contain all essential amino acids necessary to build and maintain muscle-are found mainly in animal sources of protein, including meat and dairy.

Whey protein is a complete, high-quality protein naturally found in dairy. Unlike plant protein sources, whey protein is naturally rich in the amino acid leucine in addition to other branched-chain amino acids.

When formulating, whey protein has a fresh, neutral taste, complementing the flavor of the food to which it is added. Easily digested, whey protein also is a fast-acting protein that can be incorporated in a wide range of food and beverage products, such as oatmeal, smoothies, clear beverages, yogurt, and snack bars. Versatile and soluble, whey protein isolates and concentrates provide value to the functional food and beverage industry to reach consumers interested in weight management, muscle benefits, and healthy aging.

A new method for measuring protein quality, which is more scientifically valid and more accurately reflects the ability of the body to utilize essential amino acids, was recently approved for use. At the November 2012 meeting of the International Dairy Federation in South Africa, it was announced that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (the same group that adopted the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score, or PDCAAS) has now accepted a new method for measuring protein quality. The new Digestible Indispensible Amino Acids Score method (DIAAS) more accurately reflects the quality of dairy proteins and their ability to complement other proteins.

Editor’s note: Both PDCAAS and DIAAS are meant to predict the digestibility of individual amino acids. The new DIAAS method is considered a more-accurate measure of protein digestibility, measuring the disappearance of amino acid between the mouth and the end of the small intestine. Its formula is: DIAAS % = 100 x (mg of digestible indispensible amino acid in 1 g of dietary protein) / (mg of the same indispensible amino acid in 1 g of reference protein).

Describe some of the latest significant studies supporting the health benefits of whey.

Nicholson: A study shared at the 2012 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting reaffirmed whey protein’s role in developing lean muscle. The study, funded by the Dairy Research Institute and presented at ACSM by the study’s principal investigator, Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, associate professor at the University of Connecticut, followed participants for nine months as they completed a thrice-weekly resistance-training program. They were given either 20 g of whey protein concentrate or soy isolate daily (at breakfast on non-training days or immediately following exercise).

After completing nine months of resistance training, all participants experienced increases in lean muscle mass. The gains for participants consuming whey protein (3.3 kg) were significantly greater than for participants consuming soy protein (1.8 kg)-potentially due to the branched-chain amino acid content of the whey protein.

The study builds upon the growing research supporting the value of resistance training combined with whey protein supplementation in building lean muscle.

Dairy proteins like whey protein and milk protein concentrates are well positioned to continue their upward climb in popularity among food and beverage manufacturers. This can be attributed to the solid science that continues to mount supporting dairy protein’s value and its ease of use in products consumers want.

Also, recent data from Mintel Group Ltd. indicates that, globally, the percentage of food and drink products launched with a slimming claim in the past five years that include whey protein is trending upwards. In new product launches with a slimming claim, Mintel’s research shows triple-digit growth-up 140% between 2008 and 2012 globally. In the weight-management industry, there is an upward trend toward products that combine whey protein, peptides, and calcium for weight loss, according to Mintel.

On the supply front, discuss the state of global competition among dairy suppliers.

Nicholson: With dairy’s exploding global consumption, overseas processors are growing more sophisticated in handling dairy ingredients and new product development. To achieve uniform performance and meet consumer expectations, these processors demand greater consistency and increasingly stringent specifications.

USDEC has worked with dairy ingredient manufacturers to clarify whole milk powder (WMP) opportunities, develop methods to tighten milk powder specs, and identify additional, vibrant, high-value areas like nonfat dry milk (NDM), milk protein concentrates (MPC), and milk protein isolates (MPI), where the U.S. is well positioned to expand globally.

In 2012, U.S. suppliers demonstrated they recognized the need to meet stringent specs. Global supply and demand trends suggest they will have the opportunity.

What kind of interesting trends/developments are you seeing in finished products?

Nicholson: Dairy proteins are now being used in a variety of novel and tasty applications to help consumers achieve the benefits of higher-protein diets, such as satiety, weight management, and muscle health. We are seeing dairy proteins introduced in new product lines ranging from the expected snack bars, cereals, and smoothies to newer applications such as oatmeal, clear sports nutrition beverages and beverage powder mixes, breads, breakfast pastries, and pasta.

USDEC works with the Dairy Research Institute’s National Dairy Foods Research Center Program, funded by the Dairy Checkoff program, to continually develop new ways to use dairy proteins in products targeting the latest consumer trends. For more information on these applications, visit www.innovatewithdairy.com. To see products already on shelves using whey protein, visit www.wheyforyou.com

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