Rather than perceiving the rise of vegan proteins as a threat, Arla Foods Ingredients believes interest in plant-based protein sources has helped drive growth in the overall space and increase consumer choice.
“It’s not really a case of dairy versus vegan alternatives,” Anne Hoest Stenbaek, head of marketing at Arla Foods Ingredients, told NutraIngredients. “Current interest in plant-based ingredients has further strengthened overall interest in proteins in the food and sport nutrition spaces.”
She said consumers are increasingly interested in foods and beverages with a high protein positioning - and this is not limited to plant protein.
“With their many positive properties - like naturality, taste and functionality - dairy proteins have been, and still are, fuelling the high-protein trend as well. There are many examples of creativity and innovation in the dairy protein space,” Hoest Stenbaek said.
As an example, she pointed out that the number of dairy drinking yoghurts/fermented drinks introductions with a protein positioning grew globally by a CAGR of 34% between 2015 and 2019, and last year, represented 17% of new product launches in the category, according to Innova Market Insights.
Difficult to differentiate
However, Hoest Stenbaek voiced concern over the lack of awareness of the differences between protein sources.
“There does need to be a greater focus on the quality profiles of different sources of protein. They can vary hugely, both in terms of nutritional benefits and factors such as taste and texture.”
For example, she said whey compares favourably with other protein sources when it comes to nutritional quality, rapid absorption and amino acid content.
“It also has a pleasant taste, which many plant-based protein sources don’t,” she added.
On a positive note, she said that consumers are highly receptive to new protein-fortified products, helped by ingredient innovation.
“If we go back ten years or so, protein-fortified products were usually rock-solid bars or bad-tasting thick powders for hardcore gym goers,” Hoest Stenbaek recalled.
Now, with Arla Food Ingredients’ Lacprodan suite of whey protein solutions, she said whey proteins can be delivered in clear and fruity shake applications, clear ready-to-drink beverages or iced teas and soft, indulgent bars.
At the forthcoming Vitafoods show, Arla will demonstrate its ability to formulate clear protein drinks and powder shakes with its Lacprodan ISO.WaterShake and Lacprodan.ISO.WATER whey protein ingredients. Overcoming the dual challenge of mouthfeel and taste, these ingredients are said to enable creation of high protein water drinks that offer a clean and watery taste without the disappointment of dry mouthfeel.
“These developments are the result of innovation and the constant drive to deliver new exciting and great tasting ways of using whey protein. I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new protein fortified food and beverage products. There are more to come for sure,” Hoest Stenbaek said.
COVID drives organic interest
Greater demand for organic products is one of the new consumer behaviours that Arla has observed on the back of the pandemic.
“Consumers have long been seeking products with a natural, healthy or wholesome positioning and this trend has accelerated during the pandemic. One of its effects has been increasing demand for organic products, which are strongly associated with health and naturality,” noted Hoest Stenbaek.
This prompted Arla to launch Lacprodan MicelPure Organic, the company’s first organic product and the first organic micellar casein isolate on the market, this year.
Hoest Stenbaek said that a major focus in 2021 and beyond will be helping manufacturers to extend their portfolios with organic protein products.
At Vitafoods, Arla Foods Ingredients will demonstrate MicelPure Organic in two applications: an RTD organic high protein beverage which combines a high protein content with low viscosity and an organic protein shake which is said to have a high protein content and clean taste profile with minimal foaming.