Posted onAugust 9, 2014
New product analysis, key industry opinion, and actionable recommendations
Key areas of innovation
Since 2007 more than 3,300 food and drink products have been enhanced with whey proteins (WPs) and are now marketed across the globe. Product launches have nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012 increasing from 372 to 729.
- The majority of WP-enhanced products have been launched in North America and Europe, which account for around 40% and 30% of product launches, respectively. However, there is a growing trend for WP-enhanced products to be launched in Asia Pacific, principally in China, Japan, and Indonesia.
- During the last decade the market for WP-enhanced products has expanded from functional sports drinks and nutrition bars into a broad range of finished goods. Increasingly, the industry is looking to expand the repertoire of products available and to differentiate products and promote their potential health benefits through evidence-based research.
Clinical trials landscape
- WPs have grown in popularity over the last decade due to their nutritional and health benefits, which include weight management and maintenance, muscle growth and repair, and cardiovascular health. Since 2006 the number of clinical trials evaluating WPs and ingredients has grown exponentially: over 70 clinical trials have been conducted and two thirds have been completed.
- There is mounting evidence from short- and long-term clinical trials that WP supplements or WP-enriched diets can be effective in weight management in healthy, obese, and diabetic individuals. While the effect on weight-loss has been modest, these results are promising and warrant further studies to assess different formulations, and determine the mechanism of action of the bioactive components. Innovative ingredients targeting this market include Prolibra (Glanbia Nutritionals) and Isolac and Optipep (Carbery).
- WP is widely used as a supplemental protein source by athletes to gain muscle mass. Recently, researchers have begun to focus on the potential role of WPs and/or leucine-rich foods or supplements to stimulate skeletal muscle synthesis and prevent age-related muscle wastage (sarcopenia). Immunotec has initiated a Phase II trial to evaluate the effect of dietary supplement Immunocal, a cysteine-rich WP isolate (WPI), in sarcopenia.
- The research on WP’s effects on cardiovascular system has been mixed. Several studies have reported acute effects in terms of lowering blood pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive patients, but it is unclear whether these effects are maintained over the longer term. It continues to be an active area of research and has led to the development of a number of innovative ingredients including BioZate (Davisco Foods), NOP-47, and Actinos (Glanbia Nutritionals).
Current market and future opportunities
- According to the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) the global WP market is worth in the region of $7bn per annum. Europe and the US account for more than 75% of global whey production. The price of WP continues to rise and looks set to reach an all-time high in 2012.
- Over the last few years there has been a shift away from dry whey production towards higher value, higher concentrate proteins (50–90% WP concentrate), and WPIs, as demand for these ingredients is still growing and they command premium prices.
- Overall, global milk consumption continues to rise as populations expand, the middle income consumer segment increases, and the demand for dairy and proteins grows. Many Asian countries are unable to meet their own demand and rely heavily on imports from the US, Europe, and smaller suppliers like Argentina, Australia, Chile, and New Zealand.
- Over the next decade, Datamonitor anticipates that the market will continue to migrate towards higher value, higher concentrate proteins and fractionates enriched with amino acids and bioactive peptides. WPs derived directly from milk are likely to become more mainstream as manufacturers develop more cost-effective ultrafiltration methods; these WPs, being different in their functionality and flavor, could open up new opportunities for food and drink manufacturers.
- The market will become more science-driven as researchers identify different bioactive components that can offer specific health benefits, and research-based evidence will grow to support or reject the role of WPs in a variety of conditions, including areas such as respiratory and central nervous system disorders.
- The market will continue to be consumer-driven and it will be essential for ingredient manufacturers, the food and drink industry, and regulators to educate consumers about the different types of WPs and to ensure that they have access to the right products to enable them to proactively manage their health with the support of research-based evidence.
What are whey proteins and why are they of interest?
Whey protein (WP) is a naturally occurring high quality protein found in dairy products. They are a group of soluble milk proteins that are formed as a watery by product of cheese-making; historically the “sweet whey” was either discarded or used in animal feeds. Typically cow’s milk contains around 3.3% protein composed of 80% casein and 20% WP; the WPs consist of a group of heterogeneous proteins, which include alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxydase, serum proteins, and lactose as well as mineral and lipids.
Functional properties of whey proteins
WPs are extremely versatile and have good functional and nutritional properties, allowing it to be used in food products in a number of ways; these are summarized in Table 1. In addition to their functional properties, WPs are rich in branched chain amino acids, such as leucine, which is important in promoting muscle protein synthesis (Layman, 2003; Tang et al., 2009); they are rich in lactose (sugar), which assists in controlling hunger and promoting weight-loss (Dairy Management, 2008; Leidy et al. 2010). The industry has begun to explore how WPs may provide additional benefits in a variety of health-related conditions, from bone to heart health, through immune inflammatory conditions, to healthy aging.