What if you could give consumers the same, refreshing experience of a morning glass of juice while also helping them squeeze in the many health benefits of protein, too? Here Joe Katterfield, Sales Development Manager, Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients, explains why protein and juice are perfect partners.
‘Kitchen Medicine’ and the rise of functional beverages
Arla Foods Ingredients recently worked with Health Focus International on a global consumer study to identify the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way we eat and shop for health. One of the trends it highlighted was ‘kitchen medicine’ – a heightened interest in nutrition and an increased willingness to pay a premium for functional health through diet.
The proportion of people globally opting for foods and beverages that provide protective, preventative health benefits grew to 17% by October 2020, up from 12% at the start of the year, while those choosing products for specific medicinal purposes grew from 9% to 12% over the same period. The number of people taking vitamins, minerals and supplements once a week or more for general health also grew, from 45% to 62%. The study also found that consumers are willing to pay up to 10% more for foods and beverages which provide immunity benefits.
Among the categories to benefit from this trend are fortified and functional beverages, the global market for which is forecast to grow to USD 125 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 5.1%.
The mainstreaming of protein
While the past year and a half has of course seen surging demand for immune health benefits, over the longer term, there has been another big nutrition story. Protein-fortified products used to be primarily the concern of the sports nutrition sector, but have gone on to achieve huge popularity with mainstream consumers. This has happened for several reasons – a growing body of scientific evidence for protein’s health benefits (in areas like satiety, weight loss and muscle growth), positive media coverage, and high-protein diets like keto and paleo.
The focus on consuming the right amount of protein has never been higher and consumers are now used to seeing high-protein versions of their favourite products. This includes the beverage category, where high-protein and source of protein claims increased by 8.6% between 2015 and 2020.
Protein – reinforcing juice’s feel-good reputation
Juices of course have a traditional association with wellness. They can be an ideal way to replenish the body’s sugar reserves, while delivering vitamins, minerals and the many other healthy ingredients in fruit and vegetables.
However, media headlines about the effects of excessive consumption on dental health and diabetes risk have increased consumer caution around high-sugar choices, leaving manufacturers looking for new ways to keep juice’s feel-good reputation alive and well. This is creating new demand for innovative functional beverages, and protein-enriched juice drinks represent a particularly exciting opportunity in the sector. Like juices, protein has a powerful association with health, and unlike some beverage ingredients, it doesn’t set alarm bells ringing – in fact it’s likely to increase appeal.
Overcoming issues with taste and mouthfeel
The demand for high-protein products more mainstream consumer groups has increased the importance of delivering great taste and mouthfeel. As a result, lot of our R&D is now focused on helping manufacturers overcome common challenges relating to the taste, texture and mouthfeel of protein, which can limit its commercial appeal.
One of our solutions in particular is the perfect way to bring the benefits of protein to juice drinks. Lacprodan ISO.Clear is a whey protein isolate developed for the fortification of functional beverages without cloudiness, graininess or off-taste. It has a protein content of 90%, offers high heat stability and is clear in solution, making it suitable for pasteurized or UHT processed juice drinks.
To showcase its potential, we recently launched a new protein-enriched juice drink concept. It shows how manufacturers can use Lacprodan ISO.Clear to deliver the benefits of whey protein isolate in a refreshing, great-tasting juice drink format with no added sugar. It demonstrates how juice drinks fortified with Lacprodan ISO.Clear can be positioned for a variety of markets, for example as a breakfast offering, a post-workout recovery drink, or a beverage for older consumers and medical patients who need extra protein.
Juices containing Lacprodan ISO. Clear taste exactly the way juice drinks should, but with the benefit of high-quality, natural whey protein isolate. It’s also easy to add to existing recipes and works well with almost all juice types, including clear juice drinks. We’ve thoroughly tested these combinations with the commonly used production equipment and parameters used for juice manufacturing to ensure easy implementation into production set-up. Furthermore, the addition of protein to juice drinks can be further enhanced with other health-promoting ingredients such as vitamins, minerals and probiotics.
A new spin on an established favourite
In short, protein can be the perfect way to polish the health halo of juice drinks. It’s also a great strategy for differentiating products, especially in a market where novel functional benefits are increasingly sought by health-conscious consumers. And with ingredients like Lacprodan ISO.Clear it’s now possible to put a new spin on an established consumer favourite without compromising on taste.
 Covid-19 data was collected by Health Focus International in October 2020 with approximately 500 respondents per country. The study covered USA, Brazil, China, UK, Spain and Germany.
 Euromonitor International, 2020
 Innova Database, 2020