Bar applications, RTDs continue to offer rich opportunities for dairy proteins, supplier says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

 © iStock / Brian Balster
© iStock / Brian Balster

Related tags Milk

Plant-based proteins might be the hot topic, but opportunities for dairy proteins continue to abound, according to one supplier.

Executives with Milk Specialties Global spoke with NutraIngredients-USA about the state of the market in the protein space.  Their take?  Milk still dominates and new avenues within that sphere offer attractive niches for suppliers with the capability of offering specialty ingredients.

“Consumers as asking for better variety and better options that meet their lifestyle needs. Two of them that we have focused on for consumers are lactose free options and organic options,”​ said Chris Baughman, general manager and vice president of Milk Specialties Global.

“There are a variety of organic options in plant-based proteins, and those are great proteins.  In dairy-based proteins, there is a need for more organic choices. And there are a lot of people who are afraid to try dairy-based or milk-based proteins because of lactose intolerance,” ​he said.

Evolving with the evolving market

The company has recently focused on milk proteins for bar applications.  The nutrition bar market continues to expand and evolve, and consumers’ palates are evolving along with it.  Gone are the days when consumers were willing to choke down chalky offerings solely because they packed a bigger protein punch. Formulators have raised the bar so that now a bar packing 20 grams or more of protein needs to come in close to the mouthfeel of an 8 gram protein content bar to be competitive.

Milk Specialties Global has developed a line of proteins called BARsoft to address this market reality.   The proteins are made with a proprietary technology that the company says creates an extended shelf life and greater pliability, yielding a bar that resists browning and hardening.

“Milk proteins are really dominating the market right now,”​ said Suvash Kafley, senior director of process and product innovation.  In addition to the BARsoft line, Kafley said the company has developed a line of protein-rich inclusions that can offer a protein boost and a crunchy texture enhancement while still keeping a clean label positioning.

Baughman said the clean label movement has been a boon for dairy proteins.  Organic offerings fit neatly into a non GMO label claim, and consumers are already well aware of milk’s health potential.

“There has been so much education about dairy protein about why it’s good. And people are getting well educated about the differences in the milk proteins, why whey absorbs faster and milk protein slower.  What’s unique about our ingredients is that we are co-prossessing those proteins together so that you get the benefits of both,”​ he said.

Future of bars

At every trade show it seems booths hawking new nutrition bars are a standard part of the furniture.  Lines come and go faster than it seems industry observers can keep up.  The delivery mode does have great uptake in the consumer market, fitting in neatly as it does with the hectic modern lifestyle in which more and more consumer are getting their nutrition in venues other than the family dinner table.  And bars (and to some degree ready to drink beverages) are more easily positioned for specific applications, such as sports recovery or meal replacement for weight management.  Still, as with every growth curve a flattening can be expected.  Are new bar lines really adding to organic growth in the category?  Or is a cannibalization starting to occur?

“At the current time probably both are true,”​ Baughman said. “But the market for bars does continue to grow and we think there is still room for innovation in dairy proteins in that market.  But we also see opportunities for milk proteins in powder products.”

In an effort to maintain a constant supply of whey for this growing market, Milk Specialties Global recently acquired a cheese factory in Monroe, WI from Saputo.  It will help the company compete in the protein space where price forms a big part of the purchase decision, Baughman said.

“Sensitivity to the price of protein is certainly relevant.  That’s where Milk Protein Specialties can help support our customers given that we are one of the largest protein suppliers in the world,” ​Baughman said.

Milk Specialties Global will showcase their line of protein ingredients at the upcoming Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas, NV next week.  The company’s booth number is Z-177.

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