Naturally functional ingredients have been one of the most important and prevalent trends in food and beverage development for decades. Few macronutrients resonate with consumers more than protein. No format dominates both the ingredient and protein segments more than dairy.

With health and weight management top of mind, consumers have increasingly become aware of the importance of incorporating more high-quality proteins into their diets.

Global new product development has coincided with recent consumer trends. From 2010 to 2014, new product launches with a protein claim have grown at a 29% annual growth rate.

No proteins have experienced greater growth than dairy proteins. Whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate all were included in more new product launches in 2014 than in 2013. In contrast, soy protein, soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate all experienced a decline.

Dairy offers a complete protein

The growth of dairy proteins can be partially attributed to the benefits of dairy over plant or meat proteins. High-quality dairy proteins are complete proteins that contain all of the essential and nonessential amino acids the body needs. They also offer advantages in functionality, flavor and nutrition that food and beverage formulators can incorporate into novel products.

The Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) is gaining steam as the recommended protein measurement tool. Backed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, DIAAS is “preferable” to the current standard, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).

PDCAAS has been the standard measurement tool for decades, but it lacks sophistication. DIAAS is a relatively new assessment method that more accurately measures protein quality. Employing a more precise tool will allow the industry to better evaluate the various proteins used as ingredients in food and beverage applications.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) drive high DIAAS scores for dairy proteins. BCAAs help stimulate muscle protein synthesis by bypassing the liver and going straight to the muscle. This results in a faster rate of absorption for improved recovery, maintenance and growth.

U.S. dairy proteins, such as whey protein, casein and milk protein, all contain higher levels of BCAAs than egg, meat, soy and wheat proteins. Leucine, a BCAA that is unique in its ability to initiate new muscle synthesis, may be the key to promoting greater gains in lean body mass when combined with resistance exercise.

Benefits for the active and aging

High-quality U.S. dairy proteins provide numerous benefits for active lifestyles. In addition to curbing hunger and maintaining a healthy weight, combining whey protein with regular resistance exercise can help build more lean muscle, enhance exercise recovery and maintain muscle mass as one ages. Research indicates consuming 20 grams of whey protein after exercise can increase muscle protein synthesis in young, active adults.

Maintaining muscle mass becomes more difficult as one ages. Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle and function, results in a 3% to 8% reduction in lean muscle mass every decade after 30 years of age. There are three simple ways aging adults can help maintain bone and muscle mass:

  1. Increase protein intake to 35% of the total daily caloric intake
  2. Boost protein intake during breakfast and snacking occasions, which typically are low in protein
  3. Consume 40 grams of protein after resistance exercise

Quantity and quality all day long

Optimizing the benefits of dairy proteins starts with understanding how much and when they should be consumed. Recent research indicates consumers should balance their protein intake throughout the day to maximize health and wellness benefits. They should target 20 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner to help maximize protein benefits.

The network of U.S. dairy suppliers offers a vast collection of ingredients with different functionalities and attributes that lend themselves to a variety of food and beverage applications. These range from a novel yogurt chilled coffee drink for breakfast, whey protein included in a beverage at lunch or a milk protein concentrate lentil soup at dinner. Integrating dairy into midmorning or midafternoon snacks, such as cheese dippers and energy bars, also can help consumers reach their recommended daily intake of protein.

Higher-protein diets improve the perception of fullness and reduce the desire to eat, helping achieve better weight loss results.

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