Protein holds an important place in the minds of consumers, merging with almost every new trend appearing in the food and beverage industry. The success of protein continues with the number of consumers beginning to understand its overall benefits and finding more ways to incorporate protein into their daily lives.

Today, 50% of consumers look to add more protein to their diets, but not just any protein — this growing appeal is largely attributed to high-quality protein. New research shows that the quality of protein, rather than simply the quantity, impacts the amount needed to retain important nutrients. A high-quality protein source can help ensure consumers are receiving the right nutrition to coincide with their health and wellness goals.

U.S. dairy proteins are among the highest-quality proteins available to manufacturers. The two main types of dairy proteins, whey and casein, are differentiated by their digestion rate and amino acid composition. While both contain branched-chain amino acids, whey proteins have a fast digestibility rate. Casein proteins digest slower, gradually releasing amino acids to the muscles. These important characteristics give whey and milk proteins a higher Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score than egg, meat, soy, pea, rice and wheat proteins. DIAAS is a proposed new measurement of protein quality.

Providing a package for energy boosts

Energy is the number one health concern of consumers ages 18 to 39. Millennials, especially, are looking for foods and beverages that give them energy to stay more alert throughout the day. However, consumers are turning away from old-fashioned energy sources and are trying new, healthier alternatives, such as ready-to-drink green tea, low-calorie coffee, sugar-free energy drinks and power smoothies.

As consumers improve their diets, they begin avoiding consumption of sugary, high-calorie products. This is an important opportunity for manufacturers to provide less artificial, but when combined with caffeine, complete energy sources that support on-the-go lifestyles and healthy eating. Better yet, dairy proteins can blend with popular flavors to produce demand-driven products because of their mild flavor.

Dairy is not often associated with energy, but it has energy-like characteristics. This was the focus of the National Dairy Council’s 2016 New Product Competition. Teams were challenged with developing an original product using dairy to promote physical and mental energy. The winning product, Panikotta, was developed by students from North Carolina State University and totaled 20 grams of protein per serving.

Supporting healthier lifestyles

Whey protein is one of the most concentrated sources of the branched-chain amino acid leucine among protein-containing foods. Leucine increases protein synthesis for enhanced muscle recovery and better workout performance. This quality is why whey protein is traditionally used to build and repair muscle after an intense workout.

Consumers of all ages and lifestyles are now turning to high-quality protein to maintain weight and aid in healthy aging. Dairy continues to be linked to better health outcomes related to obesity, because eating a higher-protein diet has been shown to support weight management. Whey protein, when paired with regular exercise or as part of a diet, may lead to a decrease in body fat and an increase in lean body mass. 

Consuming a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal can also help protect against the effects of sarcopenia, the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and function that can begin at age 40. Eating roughly 25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein at each meal throughout the day is suggested as optimal to kick-starting muscle protein synthesis to preserve muscle health.

Flavor, application enhancements

U.S. dairy protein ingredients are ideal for on-trend foods and beverages. Consumers are embracing protein powders as an easily added high-quality protein source for products. In fact, 60% of consumers seek snacks they can draw on immediately for energy. Using dairy proteins to create snacks such as sports drinks, smoothies and bars promotes all-day protein consumption.

Dairy proteins can also be added to soups and baked goods. The U.S. Dairy Export Council’s yogurt barley soup combines milk protein concentrate 85, whey protein and Greek-yogurt to provide 13 grams of protein, which is 25% of the daily value. Check out the savory soft protein pretzels, which use whey protein concentrate 80 to provide a good source (9 grams) of protein for quick and tasty nutrition boost.

Visit for more information on the benefits of formulating with U.S. dairy proteins for a wider audience appeal in your foods and beverages.