The ingredient is said to be a breakthrough in protein technology as it allows for the addition of the normally heavy, insoluble substance to beverages - the fastest growing segment of the sports nutrition industry - by using smaller protein compounds, or peptides.
This breakthrough in formulation will not only create the next generation of sports nutrition products but also allow for new functional foods, according to DSM.
"If you look at all the mass market sports drinks today, their basic ingredients are sugar and water. But all this sugar is unhealthy and the big companies marketing the leading brands are under pressure to respond to the obesity epidemic," said Dr Stefan Siebrecht, marketing manager for the PeptoPro product.
"It is an absolutely logical development that we replace some of the sugar with protein, which both supplies energy and decreases muscle damage and fatigue."
He added that the technical developments - splitting proteins into small fragments to allow for better absorption and faster uptake by the body as well as increased solubility in liquids - fit with two of today's major trends in the food industry.
The Atkins diet has made people think more about protein, and replacing carbohydrates with protein. At the same time, new developments in peptides are set to offer innovation in a whole range of applications.
"The whole food industry is working on biofunctional peptides, which are different from amino acids and different from protein," explained Siebrecht.
A peptide is a compound of two or more amino acids bound together. Single amino acids are not allowed to be added to foods in Europe, while proteins are difficult to add to liquids - they tend to be included in thicker drinks like shakes - and hard to digest.
"Peptides are freely allowed in Europe but don't pose the allergy problem caused by some proteins," added Siebrecht.
The PeptoPro ingredient is only one of a range of peptides being researched by DSM for different functions and applications.
"We are also working on a diabetic product with Unilever and a clinical nutrition application, such as a protein supplement for the elderly who tend to eat less and less protein because of the difficulties digesting it, making them lose muscle mass and their strength," he said.
There could also be cholesterol-lowering properties from peptide-containing foods.
Proteins are already included in drinks in Japan - the most advanced sports drink market - in the form of amino acids but ingredient firms believe peptides are a superior ingredient. Absorption of peptides stimulates the body's production of insulin, transporting glucose more rapidly from the blood to the muscle cells. Once in the muscle, glucose is converted into glycogen - muscle fuel. The faster this takes place following high intensity exercise, the faster can recover and perform again at their optimal level.
DSM says three, as yet unpublished, trials carried out at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands concluded that the PeptoPro drink leads to a 5 per cent better average performance level in athletes compared to those using an ordinary sugar-based sports drink.
But it is not the first to market a peptide for sports drinks. Former ICI'sflavor and food ingredient business Quest international, now operating asKerry BioScience under the Kerry group, launched Hyprol, a wheat gluten hydrolysate, in 2002 and it is now available in 12different markets in a product called Enduro, marketed by UK firm ExtremeDrinks.
Kerry Bioscience says clinical trials published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition have found the gluten hydrolysate to have a more powerful effect on glycogen synthesis than any other protein sources.
"A drink containing the peptide in combination with other ingredients can halve recovery times in athletes," said Andre Siemensa, nutritionist at Kerry Bioscience.
Global product manager Shahin Sandino says the ingredient has seen double digit growth since its launch and has further contracts in place although he declined to reveal whether these included any major sports nutrition companies. The company is also working on a peptide to address obesity.
DSM is reportedly in talks with some of the Japanese beverage firms and a major US sports nutrition company. Trial of the drink by a reported 80 per cent of all Dutch Olympic athletes has also given the ingredient good coverage.
"Sales of peptides are currently low but I think peptide drinks will take over sales of amino acid drinks in Japan, worth around $210 million at the moment. Amino acid drinks are limited by bad taste. Peptide drinks taste better and we could therefore increase this market by 100 per cent," said Siebrecht.
"In the end we would like to try to convince the big beverage firms to change their recipes, taking out the sugar and replacing it with peptides. Protein is really a much healthier option."
The Netherlands' most successful Olympic athlete, swimmer Inge de Bruijn, will front the January 2005 commercial launch of PeptoPro in Haleko's Multipower Recharge Drink, as well as a range of nutrition bars and protein powders, featuring the PeptoPro logo on the packaging.
The range will be marketed in 30 countries round the world by the German firm.