Nutritious, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages are on a fast road to consumer hearts in markets where convenience and health are co-drivers. As alternatives to carbonated drinks, RTD products are increasingly popular, particularly at breakfast and in connection with sport. If they also contain protein, so much the better.
Global RTD launches with a high source of protein claim grew 24% a year from 2010 to 2015, according to Euromonitor. In the protein beverage category overall, Innova Market Insights reports that the source of added protein is predominantly whey.
With its optimum amino acid profile, high digestibility and clean taste, whey protein is just right for premium coffee, tea, chocolate or fruit drinks that pack a healthy punch.
Solving a processing challenge
In the past, a key processing challenge has limited the amount of whey protein that can be added to UHT-treated RTD beverages. The problem is the ‘fouling’ that occurs when dairy proteins caramelise and form deposits on the UHT processing line.
Today, development work at Arla Foods Ingredients has overcome the issue, allowing manufacturers to increase the level of whey protein to 40% of the total protein content without risk – regardless of whether they use direct or indirect heating.
In other words, the UHT line can continue running without additional stops for cleaning. That’s a big advantage for manufacturers with many customer orders to fulfil.
Concepts for breakfast and sports
Based on this work, we have developed a series of protein-enriched RTD concepts: two RTD chocolate and fruit beverages for the mainstream sports nutrition segment and two RTD coffee and tea concepts for the breakfast and between-meal segment.
All of them are low in fat, have a refreshing taste and texture and can be based on water as well as milk. Above all, they contain a higher dose of whey protein – the protein of choice within the beverage category.