Peter Schouw Andersen, business development manager, Arla Foods Ingredients chatted about the trend with BeverageDaily.com ahead of Food Ingredients Europe (FIE) in Frankfurt (November 19-21).
Arla will present a clear whey protein-based water concept at the show, which it believes holds mainstream appeal and a sizeable potential profit pool for soft drinks firms.
Huge growth segment
Andersen enthused about broader growth within the protein-based beverage field among mainstream consumers. For instance, Arla sells a blueberry-flavored milk with 50% extra protein (targeting exercise recovery) in Swedish C-stores.
“It’s a huge growth segment, especially in Scandinavia, where the number of SKUs in 7-11s, C-stores are increasingly significantly. It’s the trend that people want more protein in their beverages, so of course that’s a big opportunity for us with our food ingredients,” Andersen said.
“People want different beverages, different formats – that’s why this clear water-based protein drink is quite interesting. It could be the next thing in Europe at least,” he added.
Despite Arla Food Ingredients status as an ingredients, rather than finished products supplier, Andersen said: “We want to get really close to our companies and have quite big facilities to trial beverages for our customers, and test them on small-scale equipment that we have".
Nestle enjoys senior BOOST
“Increasingly, we need to think what can be done with our ingredients,” he added.
One interesting area within protein beverages was senior nutrition, for instance, Andersen agreed, where Nestlé has enjoyed success with BOOST drinks, and recently announced a $72m investment at an Indiana site to support growth.
“That’s one of the next big things, segments within populations. Products like BOOST reach a very interesting segment, because it’s a largely untouched segment, with an increasing amount of people entering it who want to look after themselves,” Andersen said.
“Again, they want to choose healthier choices than they can today. And I think that’s a trend – different demographics, people want the same beverages, the same soft drinks – but want healthier options.”
Turning to Arla’s FIE launch, Andersen said that creating a “crystal clear protein beverage with very low astringency is quite a challenge for most whey protein producers today, so I think that’s one of its USPs”.
Protein water has yet to really take off in Europe, unlike in the US, but Andersen believes the timing for such products is better today; Arla’s 500ml concept drink contains 25% of RDA of protein via WPI, which allows brands to make nutrition claims, and can be further fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Guilt-free, tastier soft drinks…
Branding around Arla’s protein water concept features an active mid-20s woman with an apple holding a bottle, but discussing the core target market, Andersen cited “people who want to have a guilt-free healthier, tastier soft drink”.
“That’s the key target group, and that’s coming more into the retail business today with the rise of Vitamin water. People want healthier choices in soft drinks, and this kind of protein makes it possible.”
Nonetheless, Andersen agrees that whey protein has found it difficult to manage the transition from a following among hardcore sports and workout enthusiasts to more mainstream consumers.
“I think it’s getting easier but there’s still a big challenge to make the consumer understand that whey protein is a significantly better protein source than, say, collagen or any other types of protein,” he says.
EFSA-approved health claims (2011-) under Article 13.1 regarding protein relate to maintenance of muscle mass, growth of muscle mass, maintaining normal bone – those three are able claimable with this ingredient.