Innovations to consumer-ready dairy products such as yogurt, ice cream and cheese get plenty of attention. Innovations to dairy ingredients? Not so much.

But such innovations can be game-changing for food and beverage formulators. That’s one of the reasons that each year, the Elmhurst, Ill.-based American Dairy Products Association (ADPI) and Dairy Foods magazine honor a dairy processing member of ADPI with the Breakthrough Award in Dairy Ingredient Innovation.

This year’s honoree is Milk Specialties Global of Eden Prairie, Minn., for enhancements made to its PRObev heat-stable whey protein isolate. The ingredient remains clear in solution over a wide pH range, explains Julian Price, Milk Specialties Global’s vice president of operations excellence, who submitted the entry on behalf of the company.

PRObev provides superior-quality whey protein and branch chain amino acid levels for optimal nutrition, Price says, and supports product innovation and greater market reach via an outstanding sensory experience and a low astringency “that complements refreshing, fruity flavors across a variety of applications.”

The PRObev ingredient is manufactured at Milk Specialties Global’s Norfolk, Neb., manufacturing facility. It is produced via a “proprietary filtration process that isolates native whey proteins in a highly concentrated form to provide maximum functionality,” he notes. The company relies on cold membrane processing conditions to ensure that the protein’s nutritional properties remain in the most natural and undenatured form possible.

“Compatible with all types of flavor and coloring systems, including ‘natural,’ ‘natural and artificial’ and ‘artificial,’ PRObev supports a scope of beverage manufacturers [ranging from those] looking to make claims such a ‘clean label’ to those looking deliver more traditional offerings,” Price explains in the entry.


Improving on a good thing

Since PRObev’s commercial introduction for the sports nutrition and functional foods markets several years ago, Milk Specialties Global’s research and development and manufacturing teams have worked to make the dairy ingredient even better through significant investments. One improvement is better heat stability.

“Whey proteins are, by their nature, not heat-stable — i.e., if you heat above 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the protein will start to denature and precipitate,” Price explains. “The first version of PRObev was heat-stable for hot-fill applications, but did not meet our high standard of shelf-life requirements, as the product would tend to slowly lose clarity and begin to form a hazy cloud in three months or so.”

With the recent release of PRObev 2, the Milk Specialties Global team introduced a significantly more heat-stable ingredient (up to 293 degrees Fahrenheit, as required for ultra-high-temperature fill applications) that maintains its clarity over a long shelf life — 12-plus months, he notes. The color and clarity of the finished PRObev-containing beverages also are brightened.

The ingredient boasts a less-astringent flavor profile, too, thanks to incorporation of an additional filtration step that helps keep the whey proteins in their native form, Price says. The results were validated by North Carolina State University’s Sensory Service Center, which, in a side-by-side taste study versus a top international competitor, found the PRObev ingredient “significantly less astringent.”

Price notes that the improvements to clarity and taste were tested at various inclusion levels, too, with the understanding that customers still want performance at higher protein concentrations. The enhancements translated into high performance in a wide variety of protein inclusions and formats.

“Milk Specialties is appreciative of the recognition, as we had a dedicated cross-functional team that works hard to lead innovation and continuously improve our ingredient offerings to give the best possible product to both our customers and the end consumers,” says David Lenzmeier, CEO of Milk Specialties Global, about the Breakthrough Award honors. “There is always room for improvement, and we don’t stop until we achieve the best possible outcome.”