Previously relegated to fitness enthusiasts, ready-to-drinkprotein-enhanced beverages have become more prevalent in several categories. The RTD market has seen launches of beverages appealing to a variety of demographic targets who might be searching for high levels of protein for body building or low protein content for everyday consumption. It seems the expansion only is increasing the demand for and advancement of protein ingredients.

“Protein shakes have been around for a while, but now there is more emphasis on other dietary platforms such as weight management, children’s nutrition, healthy aging and so on, that warrant new formula requirements and ingredients to support these platforms,” says Gwen Bargetzi, director of marketing for Hilmar Ingredients, Hilmar, Calif. “Within this evolving formulation environment, beverages remain a convenient delivery system for good nutrition.”

Whey protein isolate has become popular in the beverage category due to its versatility. It’s also respected in the fitness community, explains Erik Rothchild, founder and chief executive officer of WheyUp, Gilbert, Ariz. Rothchild was inspired to launch WheyUp in 2006 by his pre-workout mix of whey protein powder and a sugar-free energy drink. WheyUp is fortified with 20-grams of whey protein isolate, which is a pure form of protein that is absorbed quickly into muscle, Rothchild says.

Whey protein offers specific benefits and is flexible in many applications, explains Grace Harris, manager of applications and new business at Hilmar Ingredients.

“Naturally derived from milk, whey protein has all the essential amino acids needed for sustaining good health and fitness,” Harris says. “Along with providing nutritional benefits, whey protein can provide excellent functionality in beverages in either ready-to-drink or dry powder mix formats. Whey protein can be modified for enhanced functionality such as heat and acid stability, viscosity control, clarity and flavor. Whey protein isolate (WPI) offers the additional benefit of remaining clear in beverages.”

Hilmar Ingredients offers a range of whey protein for beverage applications, Harris says. Its lineup includes whey protein concentrates, isolates, hydrolysates, lactalbumin-enriched proteins and other specialty whey proteins, as well as instantized versions. To determine the ideal ingredient, Hilmar Ingredients has technical support through its application and research and development departments, Harris says. It also has a pilot plant with equipment that might be used during the normal development process, such as ultra-heat treatment unit for beverages requiring flash pasteurization, she says.

Many protein-enhanced beverage manufacturers frequently request a protein ingredient that will remain clear in beverages. Glanbia Nutritionals, Monroe, Wis., developed Provon A – 190 whey protein isolate that is pre-acidified to offer the nutritional benefits of whey protein isolate as well as excellent process functionality and flavor release, says Starla Paulsen, applications department manager.

In August, Glanbia opened its Collaboration Center in Twin Falls, Idaho. The center provides formulators with a hands-on experience in product development, Paulsen says. Glanbia has seen an increase in demand for varied inclusions, such as in iced teas, flavored waters, smoothies as well as dairy-based beverages, she says. The application often decides the specific ingredient.

“For a meal replacement or sports nutrition shake, the processing requirements are very different due to the product’s neutral pH,” Paulsen explains. “Ingredients such as Thermax 70 or Thermax 690 offer the heat and stability required by beverage manufacturers and the nutrients that consumers crave. Alternatively, Glanbia Nutritionals offers CFM100, which is a complete system for high protein beverages.”
Fonterra USA Inc., Rosemont, Ill., also has a Technical Center outside of Chicago where it works on ingredient application possibilities. The company offers a range of protein ingredients for inclusion in lifestyle, sports, satiety, meal-replacement and enhanced water applications. The company is based in New Zealand, where it also markets commercialized products, such as Wh2ole, a protein-enhanced water. Wh2ole incorporates Fonterra’s ClearProtein 885 Whey Protein Isolate, which is pre-acidified, 90 percent protein and suitable for clear beverage applications, says Luis Hernandez, beverages application scientist.

The company also offers ClearProtein 8822 WPI, which is ideal for powdered acidic clear beverages. In addition, Fonterra developed ClearProtein 894 that has a neutral flavor as well as ClearProtein 895 with neutral flavor, good clarity and stability in acidic beverages, Fonterra says. Fonterra’s ingredients have a long shelf-life and can be incorporated in varied amounts to appeal to a specific target audience, Hernandez says.

“People who are on a high protein diet are looking for lots of protein, but for most people, you can have 8 percent protein and still have a clear beverage with mass market appeal that offers 5- to 10-grams of whey protein, which is a good amount for satiety or recovery after exercise,” he says.

With the number of choices available, Hernandez concludes that the sky is the limit for whey protein in beverage applications. BI

Related Links:
March 2010 Ingredient Spotlight: Vanilla maintains spot as top beverage flavor
Feb. 2010 Category focus: Protein appeals to the masses
Oct. 2009 Beverage R&D: Targeted performance ingredients deliver results