Dairy Foods Blog

Powering dairy sales with protein: Sports performance

36% of exercisers say they look for products that contain protein, and nearly 33% of these active consumers would pay more for a product with added protein.

October 29, 2013

By Geri Berdak and Jeff Zachwieja

More people are exercising today than in the past, and more than one billion additional total hours of exercise occur each year than in 2003. These stats help support a growing opportunity for dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, as well as dairy ingredients, including whey protein, to highlight the sports performance benefits that dairy’s protein content and overall nutrient package offers.

Increased time spent on exercise and sporting activities are one example of how an increasing number of consumers are turning to a holistic approach to health and wellness. (Changes to weight management are another, which we discussed in "Powering dairy growth with protein: weight management").

For years, the nutritional quality of the diet, specifically the value of dietary protein, has commonly been associated with sports nutrition and performance. Athletes and many who live an active lifestyle and exercising regularly can reap benefits of higher protein diets, including muscle building and maintenance, improved body composition and exercise recovery.

Research shows that 36 percent of exercisers say they look for products that contain protein, and nearly a third of these active consumers would pay more for a product with added protein.

By communicating that dairy is a source of protein to sports-minded individuals, the industry is opening the door to a tremendous business opportunity to elevate the awareness of the essential nutrients such as the protein and calcium found in milk, cheese and yogurt products.

Learning from flavored milk and whey protein

While the protein marketplace for sports performance is huge, dairy foods are missing out. Only 12 percent of consumers recognize dairy products as sources of protein. However, two segments — flavored milk and whey protein—have paved the way for cheese and yogurt in the sports performance arena.

Thanks to science establishing that consuming flavored milk as part of a post-workout plan is an effective way to stimulate muscle recovery and replenish the body’s nutrient needs after exercise, the industry has begun to help consumers see milk in a whole new way.

At the same time, consuming whey protein in combination with resistance exercise has been shown to help athletes gain more lean muscle than resistance training alone.2 In fact, of consumers who are familiar with whey protein, 57 percent agree whey protein is good for you and 43 percent agree that whey protein is one of the highest quality proteins.

Not all proteins are equal

Dietary proteins vary according to their source. Though proteins are found naturally in animal foods and some plant foods, the amount and quality of protein differs. High-quality proteins, such as those found in milk, cheese and yogurt, provide all the essential amino acids the body can’t make on its own.

In fact, a newly recommended method for assessing protein quality, Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score, is anticipated to further differentiate dairy products as high quality protein sources, adding to the growing body of research supporting the role of the protein found in milk, cheese and yogurt to help consumers achieve desired end benefits associated with sports performance.

Backed by sound science and a growing market of exercise-conscious consumers, we now have the momentum to evolve the dairy and protein conversation to one of protein quality and how the nutrient package offered by dairy products and ingredients meets a spectrum of sports performance needs.

By following the lead of flavored milk and whey protein, cheese and yogurt manufacturers have a significant opportunity to innovate and position their products as sources of high-quality protein.


  • Protein whitepaper, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy; 2013:28
  • Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, et al. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007; 292: E71-E76
  • DMI 2011 Protein Tracker Update
  • DRI brochure, 2013
  • DMI Whey Protein Tracker 2008
You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Anderson Erickson Dairy, Des Moines, Iowa

 From this one plant, AE Dairy manufactures a full range of Grade A dairy beverages and foods, including white and flavored milk, ice cream mix (packaged for retail sale and for commercial use), 50 flavors of Greek and conventional low-fat and nonfat yogurt, buttermilk, whipping cream, cottage cheese, juices, sour cream and dips.  


This photo gallery contains additional, unpublished photos of dairy processing facilities featured in Dairy Foods magazine. To view more Behind the Scenes galleries go to our archives page!

1/26/15 8:15 am EST

President's Address --2020 Vision

On Demand They say hindsight is 20/20, but IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton is turning that old adage on its head. She plans to look forward to the next five years with a focused vision on important changes ahead for the dairy industry. In her address Tipton will challenge industry leaders to be willing to shake things up. She will unveil plans to ramp up IDFA activities during the run up to 2020.

Dairy Foods Magazine

dairy foods january 2015

2015 January

Our annual supplier spotlights issue; A look inside Anderson Erickson Dairy; plus our detection systems Q&A

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Dairy Foods in 2015

Which dairy food do you plan to eat more of in 2015?
View Results Poll Archive


Tharp & Young on Ice Cream: An Encyclopedic Guide to Ice Cream Science and Technology

An at once an all-inclusive guide to the meaning of hundreds of technical terms and ideas needed for ice cream manufacturing, as well as a practical introduction to the ingredients, freezing methods, flavoring, and packaging of ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, gelato, frozen yogurts, novelties and many other kinds of frozen desserts.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications, Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


Facebook logo 40px 2-12-13 Twitter logo 40px 2-12-13  YouTube logo 40px 2-12-13  LinkedIn logo 40px 2-12-13google plus

Dairy Foods Buyers Guide

cover df july 2013Resource for buyers in the dairy processing industry to find information on the leading suppliers and manufacturers.

Find Ingredients, Equipment, Distribution, R&D and More.

Start Your Search Today.