Issue 46

New Chinese standards expand the hydrolysate market

Whey protein hydrolysates have gained a foothold in infant formula, with opportunities emerging in infant, clinical and sports nutrition

Use of whey protein hydrolysates has taken off in China, which today ranks among the top five countries in the world for new infant formula launches containing the ingredient.*

The trend is directly linked to China’s approval of whey protein hydrolysate for use in mainstream foods in 2013, when Arla Foods Ingredients’ hydrolysate Lacprodan® 3065 was the first to be endorsed.

Now further legislation is opening up for whey protein hydrolysates in other segments, particularly clinical nutrition. Jakob Madsen Pedersen, business development manager for paediatrics nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients, expects demand to reach new heights in the years ahead.

“Interest in specialist nutrition is growing in China, where the one-child policy has contributed to a rapidly aging population. At the same time, the growth of the middle class means Chinese consumers have more money to spend on nutritional products that promote faster recovery after an operation, for example.”

New standards for special needs formulas
The most recent legislation, implemented on 1 January this year, established a new good practices standard for the production of formulas for special medical purposes. A national food safety standard, requiring full scientific documentation of the safety and effectiveness of such formulas, was introduced in July 2014.

While previous legislation has focused on liquid and powder formulas for infants alone, the 2014 national food safety standard targets all special medical purpose formulas for consumers over the age of one – in other words, the rest of the population. Special medical purposes applies to formulas developed for consumers with restricted food intake, digestive and metabolic disorders and certain diseases.

“The ingredients in all such foods must be supported by scientific documentation,” Pedersen adds. “That’s good news for us at Arla Foods Ingredients, where science drives our approach to the dairy ingredients industry.”

Sales of infant formula growing fast
According to a Mintel survey, value sales of infant and toddler formula grew 178% in China between 2008 and 2013, with 70% of mothers claiming to have fed their children with formula powder at least once a day.

Currently around 5% of the infant formulas on Chinese store shelves contain hydrolysates for improved digestion and absorption. Starting from scratch at the beginning of 2013, this growth in hydrolysate addition reflects a global trend. China ranks alongside the USA, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany in the top five countries for infant and toddler formula launches with whey protein hydrolysates.

Seniors spur interest in clinical nutrition
For the rest of the population, whey protein hydrolysates provide documented benefits in specialised products for sports and clinical nutrition. Although the market for both remains relatively small in China, strong growth is forecast over the next four years.

“From the customer enquiries we receive, we can sense a growing interest in clinical nutrition in particular,” says Vivian Kjær Jensen, Arla Foods Ingredients business development manager for health and performance nutrition.

“The Chinese law that obliges grown-up children to visit and look after their elderly parents has contributed to this. With more than a fifth of the Chinese population forecast to be over the age of 60 by 2025, the need to keep seniors fit and healthy and help them recover quickly from illness is becoming increasingly pressing.”

For this population group, whey protein hydrolysates help maintain the muscle mass necessary for independent, active living.

Knowledge-sharing seminar
Arla Foods Ingredients and invited speakers shared the latest R&D knowledge about dairy ingredients for infant formula and health foods at the company’s 2014 Beijing Seminar. Some 200 participants, primarily customers, attended the two-day event.

For more information, contact Nutrition@arlafoods.com.

*Mintel