More than meets the eye when comparing dairy and plant proteins

Through a landscape study on how various protein ingredients are processed, Dr Rohit Kapoor, vice-president, product research, Dairy Management Inc., sheds lights on why dairy proteins are a clean label and planet-friendly option for food and beverage formulators.

Global demand for protein-rich food and beverages is on the rise as consumers seek to boost intake of this important nutrient to meet health and wellness goals from fitness to weight management to healthy aging. To capture this demand, food manufacturers have been launching new products or reformulating existing items to be high in protein. This has been seen not just in sports nutrition bars and beverages but in everyday food items like yoghurt, snacks, baked goods, sauces, ice cream and more.

Dairy protein ingredients have been at the forefront of this trend due to extensive published science on its nutritional benefits. Its multi-functional usage potential, clean taste and versality is another advantage that works in its flavour. The rise in consumer demand for protein has also brought new plant and insect-based entrants into an increasingly crowded protein marketplace.

There is significant scientific literature about differences in protein nutritional quality between dairy and plant protein ingredients. However, the manufacturing perspective for how these different sources of proteins are isolated, concentrated and dried into powders during commercial processing had not previously been systematically benchmarked and compared. Without practical understanding and study, confusion can occur, impacting consumers’ and manufacturers’ purchase and usage decision-making for protein ingredient selection.

It was with this in mind that a landscape study on comparative processing of protein ingredients was commissioned by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and conducted by RTI International, an independent non-profit research institute in the US. Benchmarking and enhancing science-backed knowledge of protein processing is especially critical at a time when increasing sustainable food production is paramount to addressing the challenge of providing valuable nutrition to the growing global and South East Asian population.

The study compared the current commercial processing methods for four dairy proteins – namely whey protein concentrate and isolate, and milk protein concentrate and isolate – and 13 plant and other alternative protein ingredients such as soy protein concentrate and isolate, rice, pea, wheat, almond, chickpea, lupine, potato, chia, algae, canola, and cricket. The study delved into the degree of processing and impact on environmental resources for each protein, starting from post-harvest through to processing of the finished dry protein powder.  

The full article is published in the latest edition of Food & Beverage Asia Feb/Mar 2021 issue. To continue reading, click here.