Dairy protein innovation at FiE 2023: From heat-stable whey to clear protein shakes

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/PixelsEffect
Getty/PixelsEffect

Related tags Whey Protein Dairy Medical nutrition Sports nutrition Nutrition Gut health Amino acid

As Food Ingredients Europe 2023 took place in Frankfurt, Germany, DairyReporter caught up with Arla Foods Ingredients and FrieslandCampina Ingredients to see how each company is advancing protein innovation.

FrieslandCampina Ingredients launched a high-heat treatment-resistant whey protein designed for medical nutrition applications. Named Nutri Whey ProHeat, the ingredient is formulated for liquid applications and is said to offer appealing sensory properties such as low viscosity and clean taste, as well as neutral pH. The company says casein – which is naturally resistant to high-heat treatment - is typically used in liquid-based oral supplements, but whey is higher in leucine content is quicker to digest, resulting in faster and higher levels of blood plasma leucine and other essential amino acids.

To make Nutri Whey ProHeat withstand heat treatment, the company leveraged a microparticulation process. Vicky Davies, Global Senior Marketing Director, Performance, Active & Medical Nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients, said: “Drinkability is a key factor in patient adherence to nutrition programmes using oral liquid supplements like drinks and shots. In fact, over half of patients in the US and Europe cite the thickness of a beverage as the reason for not finishing it.

“So there’s an increasing demand for oral liquid supplements that are compact, offer good drinkability and are – of course – nutritionally complete. Currently, casein is typically used in these formats, as it does a great job of delivering protein’s helpful benefits in heat-treated liquid formats.

“However, there are increasing calls from the market to increase whey protein contribution in these liquid formats, alongside casein protein. This is because whey offers superb nutritional benefits, as it’s quickly digested and high in essential amino acids that help muscle protein synthesis. But here’s the rub – whey protein is not easily heat treated, and this is an essential step for ensuring the safety and stability of medical nutrition supplements.

“At high temperatures, whey proteins are irreversibly denatured. This denaturation causes challenges with gelation in oral liquid supplements and results in adverse sensory properties, such as sedimentation and high viscosity. In turn, this negatively affects the supplement’s appeal and makes them more difficult to consume. Nutri Whey ProHeat was designed specifically for the purpose of overcoming this hurdle. Our challenge was to produce a product with a small, average particle size that could be used in high protein applications, which we achieved thanks to our microparticulation process.”

[The ingredient] is produced by thermal denaturation of the whey proteins under high shear stress, she added – “in essence, using heat treatments to change the properties of the protein”. The protein can withstand UHT processing – typically up to 140°C – which is a much higher threshold compared to the 75°C where whey typically becomes denatured, we were told.

While the ingredient was formulated specifically with medical nutrition applications in mind, Davis insists it also “represents a leap in the market in terms of protein delivery”. “We’ve created an application concept using Nutri Whey ProHeat which significantly increases the level of available protein in a compact 2 kcal/ml solution, without increasing the end product’s viscosity. The concept offers 15% protein, a high level of energy and essential nutrients for patient recovery,” she told us.

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Arla Foods Ingredients' clear protein shake concepts were among the show highlights from the company

Meanwhile, Arla Foods Ingredients’ showcase included a range of fermented protein drinks formulated with the company’s whey-based hydrolysate solution, developed to give fermented protein beverages a novel refreshing twist, as the company says.

Jeppe Sand, head of food sales at the subsidiary, said that the company wanted to showcase a product that combines the refreshing taste that consumers have come to love through non-dairy beverages such as kombucha, but with the option to gain gut health benefits through ingesting whey. “We both have the probiotic properties of the dairy protein but also that fresh feeling after drinking it,” Sand said. “You have a clear drink without any sedimentation, practically kombucha-like, compared to other beverages that contain dairy proteins but also have a milky look.

“This is really a new thing on the market, it’s something you can’t really place in a category because it’s somewhere between a drinking yogurt and a soft drink. And what’s unique is that it’s clear in terms of viscosity but you do get the benefits of fermented cultures that you get in drinking yogurt. It’s also easy to digest as protein and then it’s lactose-free. That’s what’s really unique here.”

The company also highlighted early life nutrition ingredient innovation through its bovine milk osteopontin ingredient Lacprodan OPN-10, which was the first OPN ingredient to gain novel food approval from the European Food Safety Agency back in 2022. “The osteopontin ingredient we have is of high purity,” commented Pankaj Arora, PhD, Pediatric Research Scientist, Arla Foods Ingredients, “meaning that if you add it to infant formula, there’s still scope for more components to be added. “Osteopontin can improve a certain type of immune response in the infant that can protect them from viral or bacterial infection. Studies have shown that osteopontin-supplemented infants have an increased number of immune cells compared to the control group. In short, osteopontin can ensure an infant’s immune system develops more closely to that of a breast-fed infant.”

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