The company has recently completed a £2.5m upgrade at its factory at Felinfach, Wales, and launched a £10m joint venture with Milk Link at its Taw Valley Creamery in Devon.
Two key trends are the biggest drivers of the recent rapid growth.
First there’s the ageing population. “From the age of 30 our muscles start to degenerate and we need to make an effort to keep muscle in good shape,” says Mark Neville, Volac’s head of lifestyle ingredients. Combining moderate exercise with regular consumption of protein is an effective way of maintaining muscle.
Second is the fight against obesity. Proteins help by promoting satiety and making people stay fuller for longer.
In addition, they ensure that a higher proportion of the weight lost when people are on a reducing diet is fat, rather than muscle. Muscle retention has a beneficial knock-on effect for dieters by promoting further calorie burning.
This means that the market has ballooned in recent times, according to Volac.
“Competitive people tend to seek out advantage wherever they can and whey protein started with body builders where the need for muscles is quite clear. Demand then spread through various strength sports until whey protein became popular at all levels of sport,” says Neville. “Now it’s been picked up across the wider consumer population and the market has really taken off.”
Amino acid profile
People who exercise regularly need to ensure they get enough protein. Moderate physical training requires between 1 and 1.6g of protein per kilograms of body weight per day. “People assume they get enough protein in their diet but they need to look at the quality of protein,” says Neville. “Whey offers the best available profile of essential amino acids.”
But he adds that the composition of the protein is only half the story: “Efficacy works in a number of ways. The amino acid profile is important, but you’ve also got to have a product that works. Will consumers put the product in their mouths again and again until they feel the benefits?”
According to Volac, whey protein has a neutral taste so manufacturers can combine it with any flavour. It’s also soluble, so it can be incorporated easily into beverages. Drinks are a popular format in sports nutrition because they’re easy to use and offer a relatively speedy route for active ingredients to be absorbed, added the company.