Whey protein on the rise across food categories

13 Nov 2018

Whey protein remains the most popular protein ingredient for athletes by far, but numerous whey protein ingredients have emerged over the past few years, in applications that take it well beyond sports nutrition.

Whey protein on the rise across food categories

Whey protein has been used as an ingredient for decades, particularly in sports shakes and bars, to help with muscle recovery after exercise. More recently, however, food manufacturers have been revisiting its many functions. While the mainstreaming of the sports nutrition sector undoubtedly has added to its appeal, more specialist whey protein ingredients are appearing in foods intended for the general public, in baked goods in particular, and they are benefiting from widespread consumer interest in added protein.

Suppliers include FrieslandCampina, Agropur Ingredients and Arla Foods Ingredients, all of which have recently introduced new whey protein ingredients.

Agropur Ingredients, for example, has launched a line of extruded whey protein ‘pods’, which are 70% protein crisps made with whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. The ingredient can add texture and protein to granola or baked goods as an inclusion or as a topping, and can be used either as a plain, neutral-tasting crisp, or enrobed in chocolate or other flavoured coatings.

Usually, whey protein is a by-product of the cheese making process, but FrieslandCampina Ingredients has introduced a premium native whey protein derived directly from raw grass-fed dairy milk. It says this story can be passed on to the consumer to differentiate protein-rich foods and drinks, particularly for those looking for more natural, minimally processed ingredients.

Meanwhile, Arla Foods Ingredients aims to tap into the continuing appeal of protein-enriched dairy products, from ice cream and yoghurt to beverages, quark and skyr. In addition, it has introduced a whey protein ingredient that can soften high protein bars and improve their texture. For protein bar manufacturers, this means a longer shelf life and less wastage, while for consumers, better texture improves palatability.

According to Research and Markets, the protein ingredients market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 6% between 2017 and 2022 to reach $58.49 billion. Despite the popularity of plant-based proteins, whey and other animal-derived proteins continue to lead the category, largely because of their more complete nutritional profile.

As many food manufacturers are seeking out the next novel protein ingredient – whether from plants, insects or algae – well established proteins like whey may be worth exploring too, for their taste, functionality, clean label, nutrition and availability.

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