Consumers Moving to Dairy for Protein Options

Protein power is an increasingly important component of a healthy diet.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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"Similarly, some consumers are concerned about the sourcing of dairy (resource management, humane treatment of the animals)," she continues. "So products with the same healthy characteristics but from a non-dairy source would be a preferred alternative to traditional dairy products."

And in regard to obesity, Rojek notes that fat- and calorie-laden products such as ice cream can be reformulated with mouthfeel flavors to contain the perception of a rich, fatty character typical of full-fat products.

Americans seem to have finally caught up with the rest of the world in yogurt consumption. "This category exploded in the past decade with new product introductions featuring decadent dessert and beverage flavors," adds Jennifer Tracy, customer marketer at Edlong Dairy Flavors. "Today, we see similar innovations, such as cheesecake-flavored ice cream, which have been accepted by consumers. New product launches like this in dairy help to keep the category fresh and interesting."

Fonterra North America (www.fonterra-northamerica.com), Rosemont, Ill., seeks to innovate along four current challenges: Healthy Convenience (closer-to-nature foods that are easy to store, transport and eat), Healthy Aging (to help aging consumers maintain healthy, active lifestyles), Mother and Child Nutrition (meeting the specific nutritional needs of mother and child) and Satiety (controlling the unhealthy cravings that create overweight and obese consumers).

Nutrition bars certainly fit into Healthy Convenience. "Our team spent a lot of time researching protein bars," says Rachel Marshall, category marketing manager-nutrition at Fonterra. "What we found is that most protein bars get steadily harder as they sit in the pantry. Some manufacturers try to compensate for the problem by using hydrosolates. But the problem there is that hydrosolates come with a bitter, off taste."

Fonterra's solution is PowerProteins, protein ingredients that allow manufacturers to formulate energy bars with a longer shelf life but without off flavors. "Instead of the typical solid brick protein bar, we created a prototype that eats more like a candy bar," she says. "A milk protein concentrate gives the bar a fluffy nougaty texture, adds protein fortification and gives the bar a shelf life of over a year."

Bananas Foster Indulgent Bar, a decadent protein-fortified energy bar with fluffy banana-flavored nougat layer on top of a high protein caramel, is a nice prototype. It delivers 10g of protein in a 40g bar, maintains a soft and fluffy texture over time, contains three times the amount of protein of a regular caramel bar and has better texture and flavor, Marshall claims. The best part: "The texture and gooey caramel satisfy your candy cravings without ruining your resolve to eat well," says Marshall.

As people work longer into retirement, there is a greater need for products geared toward vitality and health in a more senior workforce, according to Mintel. To address Healthy Aging, Fonterra developed Reduced-Sodium Savory Cheddar, a breakthrough natural Cheddar with 40 percent less salt and less fat. The technology has been in the works for three years. "Reducing salt in cheese has been a holy grail of cheese manufacturing for decades. But simply removing salt is difficult, because sodium impacts everything from flavor, texture and moisture content to keeping ability," says Joe O'Malley, Fonterra's marketing director for cheese. "Normally when you start reducing salt, the cheese starts tasting off. We used a special starter culture to ensure the product kept a full semi-mature flavor. It has all the functionality of a regular Cheddar."

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