Ready-to-drink beverages rich in additional protein have exploded in popularity over the past decade as consumers look for ways to replace meals, increase protein intake for athletic activity, and generally to play a more active role in their nutrition. Both refrigerated and shelf-stable protein drinks see consistent year-over-year growth in sales and popularity, with an increase of greater than 5% from 2015 to 2016 alone. That growth has continued through 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down — so how can beverage formulators capitalize on this trend?
Creating high-protein beverages comes with many pitfalls, including the possibility of creating product formulations that cannot remain stable or which take on undesirable qualities after a short period. For the high protein ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage formulator, protein concentrate powders can play an essential role in achieving desired outcomes across the board, from nutrition to taste and texture. The right choice, however, is vital. At Idaho Milk Products, we aim to make it simple and straightforward for formulators to develop clean label products that have all the characteristics they and their consumers require.
Why Consumers Enjoy Products Enriched with Milk Proteins
What makes efforts to develop RTD products enriched with milk proteins so worthwhile? There is no one single answer, but rather a range of reasons why consumers find these products appealing. Some of the benefits of developing these products include:
- The understanding consumers already have regarding dairy proteins. Whey and casein proteins are already well-known among the general populace and particularly among active adults. Their presence as isolated powders for supplementation means most consumers know them as safe ingredients.
- An increasingly “on the go” lifestyle that necessitates quick, tasty, and convenient food and beverage options. RTD products are ideal for satisfying these needs, and protein-enhanced products create the added appeal of having some nutritional value beyond the product’s tastiness as a drink.
- Consumers desire “fresh” products that reflect a wholesome approach to nutrition. The usage of real dairy proteins produced through ultrafiltration rather than chemical separation plays into this desire.
By using milk protein concentrates in developing RTD products, it’s possible to satisfy customer demand while also creating an appealing marketing position.
Is WPC Suitable for an RTD Formulation?
Whey protein may be the first additive you consider when looking at RTD applications and the need to achieve a consistent product in-package, based on its past status as a standard in formulations. However, the science has shown that whey proteins denature too readily under the heat treatments necessary for sterilizing RTD products. The result is often a product that seems stable at first but breaks down over time as whey proteins flocculate and settle out of the solution. Such separation is highly undesirable to consumers, and WPC is no longer widely relied upon for formulating RTD beverages. A better solution exists.
The Advantages of MPC for Protein-Enriched Beverages
Unlike WPC, milk protein concentrate (MPC) contains both whey proteins and micellar casein, virtually unchanged from the way they would appear in fresh milk. The presence of casein, combined with the production methods used for MPC, make these products ideal for RTD formulation. Able to withstand even ultra-high temperature pasteurization, casein-based MPCs impart practically no undesirable flavor notes while ensuring a smooth, consistent mouthfeel. Aggregation of casein micelles over time can occur. Still, a small amount of a stabilizing agent can extend the shelf life of MPC-containing RTD beverages to nearly a year and a half — a significant advantage for your margins.
Things to Know About Working with MPC
There are some limitations to using MPC, and it’s important to know what you cannot achieve effortlessly when using these products. Drinks with a pH below six are too acidic for casein molecules to remain stable, so lower-acid applications are necessary to maintain the protein’s efficiency. Another challenge concerns actual production techniques when using MPC, namely the time required for hydration. At low mixing temperatures through ambient room temperature, it may take from six to ten hours to thoroughly hydrate milk protein concentrate powders. This process is necessary to maintain solubility, but formulators should factor the required additional time into planning.
Explore Better Solutions for Beverage Formulators
The wide range of potential protein concentrations, from as low as 80% to as high as 90%+, creates an array of challenges for the formulator. The unique concerns surrounding proper powder hydration and mixing also necessitate special knowledge to create products that reflect the most desirable qualities in an RTD application. At Idaho Milk Products, we’re ideally positioned to assist formulators in understanding which WPC/MPC additives are best for their desired applications. With access to leading technology, cutting-edge ultrafiltration techniques, and a commitment to quality and purity, our products are ideal for RTD product development and much more.
Find out how to best to use these solutions for your products when you contact us today.