Consumers are expecting more from their food products, with functional benefits coming to the fore of consumer demands as more people become educated about nutrition.
The dairy sector has also seen a surge in protein-enhanced products, meaning consumers can enjoy great tasting products while fulfilling their need for energy or muscle repair.
As a World Dairy Innovation Awards 2018 winner, WheyHey, a protein enhanced ice-cream, offers consumers such functional benefits through its ready-to-eat format.
Damien Kennedy, founder of WheyHey, details how the sector has responded to the demands of functionality in dairy, and explores the insights he has gained into consumer usage of protein.
Do you think there is a limit to the demand for whey protein enhanced products?
Right now the protein message is appearing on all sorts of products, from breakfast cereals to yogurts – however, with much of these, the protein comes from inferior sources such as soy and nuts. These are not easily digested by the body and do not give you the full range of amino acids like Whey protein – the gold standard of protein sources.
As protein continues to become more mainstream, consumers will become better educated in this area and the different protein claims being made, ranging from ‘contains protein’ to ‘source of protein’ to ‘high in protein’ (all of which legally require a different protein content). As consumers become savvier, they will know the difference between brands that just claim to contain protein and those with enhanced protein content, and will seek out brands that use high-quality sources of protein and give them the protein hit they’re after.
How have you retained the taste of your ice cream while it is still naturally sugar-free?
We are proven in blind taste tests to be the best tasting healthy ice cream. We use the highest quality ingredients in all of our products and to retain the sweetness of the ice cream whilst making it sugar-free, we use an extract from the birch tree. The whey protein isolate that we use also helps to give our ice creams a thick and creamy texture without having to fill the products with lots of bulking agents.
What changes have you witnessed in terms of functionality within the dairy sector?
The main change that we have noticed is the messaging on packaging. So many brands are now shouting about being a source of protein or high protein but very little has actually changed in their products.
Dairy is naturally a good source of protein but this message has been neglected until the protein trend has emerged. However, with so many of these products, it is important to note that although they are high in protein, the sugar content is extremely high and consumers can be misled into thinking a product is healthy purely due to the protein claim.
How do consumers make functional dairy part of a routine, say for an exercise diet?
The bio-availability of whey protein is second to none, so it can play a very useful role in the recovery process around workouts, traditionally consumed in protein shakes. However, protein consumption throughout the day is also very important, especially for those who do exercise a lot, so functional dairy products help consumers meet their protein requirements.
Unfortunately, many of these products will also be packed full of sugar at the same time making it hard to people to find a genuinely healthy option.
Can functionality be applied to all areas of the dairy sector, and are you looking to expand into other formats?
We have a brand that allows us to expand into different formats and it’s something that we are always looking to do, we want consumers to know that wherever in store they find a Wheyhey product it will be delicious, sugar-free and high in protein. The focus on sugar removal is so important at the moment and this will always be at the core of our products. Functionality is important but this doesn’t have to be done in a technical and clinical way. Wheyhey wants to educate consumers and do so in a friendly approachable manner to help consumers live outrageously well.
Are there any other functional benefits you are or could potentially look into for dairy products?
Recently dairy has been getting quite a bad reputation, particularly with the emergence of so many dairy alternatives. However, we firmly believe that dairy already holds so many benefits for the human body. Aside from whey protein, dairy is a great source of vitamin D and calcium which is so important for bone health.
However, an emerging trend is gut health. Dairy products, especially yoghurts, contain probiotics, and these have been shown to improve overall health as well as reduce the risk of disease. Whatever direction we take Wheyhey in, we will make sure that the product as a whole has the desired health and nutritional benefits. Too many companies shout about one aspect of their product whilst neglecting another, misleading consumers.
For more information on the winners of the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2018, click here.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019