The Hartman Group’s “Health + Wellness 2019” study revealed that 60% of consumers are seeking to increase protein in their diet. There’s a lot of buzz around plant proteins and clear growth in the segment, yet most plant-based proteins struggle to compete with dairy proteins in nutrition, flavor and function.

The dairy industry continues to research the benefits of dairy protein and the best ways to communicate these benefits to consumers and food formulators. Check out this new website for information about how milk proteins make you strong inside:


Nutrition messages

“The Strong Inside” campaign is part of the Dairy Protein Messaging Initiative (DPMI), which is led and funded by 52 companies, trade associations and other organizations. DPMI is managed by the American Dairy Products Institute.

“This campaign is not like any other, as it fills a void that currently exists,” said Terry Brockman, president and chief operating officer, Cheese Division (USA), Saputo. Saputo is a DPMI cosponsor.

“Little has been done to promote proteins from milk to consumers in the past 10 to 15 years,” he added. “This campaign is designed to reach younger consumers and flexitarians who are perhaps less loyal to dairy, but do seek to increase proteins in their diet. Ideally, it will reposition milk-based proteins for increased impact and sustained growth.”

DPMI conducted extensive consumer research and a thorough review of social media over several months. They found three factors that motivate protein-seekers. The largest group is motivated by fitness goals, and 56% of individuals in this group are male. Satiating hunger and losing weight are also key motivators, and 63% in this group are female. Females also dominate the third group, which is motivated by lifestyle and interested in high-protein/low-carb or similar diets.

The study also found that protein-seekers are intelligent and curious, and they can be positively influenced toward proteins from milk when exposed to information about their benefits. Communication will have an impact, and it is critical to appeal to emotions, as well as to provide facts and figures.


Function and flavor

“Dairy proteins show superior performance in just about all applications, especially in traditional products such as beverages and bars,” said KJ Burrington, dairy ingredient applications coordinator at the Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin – Madison. “You can make acceptable beverages with some plant proteins such as nuts, oats or soy with 2 to 10 grams protein [per] serving, but not at the protein levels greater than 10 grams protein [per] serving that you can achieve with dairy proteins.”

The center recently conducted research comparing the functional benefits of various dairy and plant proteins.

“The flavor and functionality differences are huge, especially with the proteins we evaluated — soy, potato, pea and rice protein,” Burrington explained. “These plant proteins really struggle in products that have been traditionally dairy-based such as beverages, cultured products and cheese analogs.”



There are applications where a combination of milk and plant proteins works to optimize nutrition and cost-efficiency. At a recent
U.S. Dairy Export Council bakery seminar in Mexico City, I explained that wheat protein is low in the essential amino acid lysine, but whey proteins are a rich source of lysine. Combining the two proteins in bagels, pancakes and cookies creates healthy breakfast and snack items that deliver a complete protein.

A brand that successfully combines wheat protein, whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate is Kodiak Cakes. A video on its website,, portrays strong and healthy consumers enjoying its products.

While wheat protein works well in baked products, it would almost never be considered for use in a beverage. However, Bolthouse Farms successfully combines whey and soy protein in a protein smoothie. Whether used alone or in combination with plant proteins, milk proteins make you strong from the inside out.