Issue 35

Performance beverages beyond the protein barrier

Arla Foods Ingredients smoothes out the technicalities in 50% protein drinks

Trends within sports performance beverages are breaking the protein barrier with protein contents many times higher than that of traditional high-protein drinks.Arla Foods Ingredients experiences the development as an increased level of enquiries – often from customers who have hit the protein wall and need a solution to get over it.

“Previously high-protein beverages have only contained 7% protein due to the technical limitations that arise at higher protein levels. What we see is a trend towards sports performance shots and gels with 40-50% protein,” says Kristian Poulsen, food scientist in Arla Foods Ingredients’ nutrition R&D department.

Technical challenges
One of the most common issues with protein levels above 8-10% is the gelling that occurs when beverages are subject to ultra high temperature (UHT) treatment. While, in sports gels, gelling is an acceptable product characteristic, high-protein shots need to retain their liquid form. The incorporation of energy-providing carbohydrates poses another challenge, the combination of protein and sugar typically leading to undesirable foam formation.

Fine-tuned functionality
This is where Kristian Poulsen and food scientist colleague Mikka Stenholdt Hansen from the nutrition R&D team come in. Their protein knowledge goes into eliminating foaming and fine-tuning viscosity to give sports gels a texture ranging from soft and squeezable to hard and brittle. 

The advanced pilot plant facilities at their disposal have the capacity to perform several trials a day. “Heat treatment is the key issue for almost all high-protein products, as ingredients react differently during heating. In our pilot plant, we are able to apply several UHT methods to match those used by the customer,” Hansen says.

Muscular gains
Containing 90% protein and minerals, Lacprodan® WPI is the most frequent choice for sports gels, promoting muscle strength, mass and recovery. Lacprodan® whey hydrolysates contribute a high protein content to liquid shots with no risk of gelling, and interest in Lacprodan® Alpha is growing due to its immunity-enhancing amino acid profile. “Our protein products also have a good flavour due to the high quality of our raw materials,” Hansen comments. 

Faster product development
Working with the nutrition R&D team, new product development is faster, and, with pilot-scale production volumes as low as 10 litres, raw material consumption is kept to a minimum during trials. Manufacturers of sports nutrition products gain a differentiated product formulation that meets all their specifications.