Dairy Proteins – An Overview

By: Mandeep Kaur *

Dairy ProteinsProteins are a vital component of a healthy diet. We have been taught from childhood that protein makes us “big and strong”. But when people are asked about the source, from where they get their protein, most of them say from eggs, meat, steak, etc. But in reality, protein is found in a wide variety of foods and beverages such as: meat, dairy, egg, plants, nuts; seeds, legumes; etc.

Proteins have an important place in the consumer’s mind and they are well aware of the significance of protein in their daily diet. Proteins tend to merge with almost every new trend that is taking place in the food and beverage industry and therefore, the food formulators and the multinational food and beverage companies are adding protein to diversify their product portfolio in order to meet the consumer’s demands.

The success story of protein continues with the increased number of consumers beginning to understand its overall benefits and finding more ways to incorporate protein into their daily menus. But they are not just looking to add any protein; in fact, the growing appeal is largely towards the high-quality protein. The researches based on the proteins revealed that the quality of protein has more impact on the amount needed to retain important nutrients rather than the quantity of the protein. High-quality protein sources ensure consumers that they are receiving the right nutrition to coincide with their health and wellness goals.

Dairy protein is one good example of a high-quality protein. Dairy contains two types of protein i.e. whey protein and casein. They contain all essential and non-essential amino acids in sufficient amounts in order to support the multiple roles of protein in the body. These dairy proteins (whey and casein) are differentiated by their digestion rate and amino acid composition. Whey proteins have a fast digestibility rate, whereas casein proteins take a longer time to digest. Also, dairy proteins have higher Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) than egg, meat, soy, pea, rice and wheat proteins. DIAAS is a newly proposed protein quality method, which determines amino acid digestibility, at the end of the small intestine.

Dairy Proteins have a Lot More to Offer

Dairy ProteinsWhile formulating protein into products intended for populations with specific needs such as: sports nutrition; weight management; healthy ageing; etc. it is very important to choose a high-quality, complete protein. Here, dairy proteins have also been successful in addressing the needs of the formulators and to meet the consumer demands such as: sustainably produced; nutritious; functional; versatile; and securely sourced ingredients. Other than being served as a convenient source to get part of your daily protein requirements, dairy proteins also possess multiple benefits in order to position them as a preferred protein source in our daily diet. Some examples are mentioned below:

Dairy Proteins are Simple Ingredients: Dairy proteins are naturally found in milk. Therefore, the process of obtaining proteins from milk does not require any extra milling or additional chemicals to keep them in solution as in the case of plant/nut-based protein sources.

Dairy Proteins are Complete Proteins: These proteins are high-quality proteins as they contain nutritionally significant quantities of all the essential amino acids (EAAs). All the plant proteins except for soy protein are considered as low-quality proteins because they do not contain adequate quantities of EAA required by the body. So if you are a vegetarian, then it’s a good idea to choose among high-quality proteins like dairy or soy, and side by side you may also enjoy other protein-rich plant-based foods, such as: whole grains; legumes; nuts; and seeds.

Dairy Protein as an Ingredient for Foods and Beverages: Consumers are embracing foods and beverages to gain instant energy to stay more alert throughout the day. They are turning away from old-fashioned energy sources and are trying new, healthier alternatives, such as: ready-to-drink green tea; low-calorie coffee; sugar-free energy drinks; power smoothies; etc. Use of dairy proteins in the formulation of snacks like sports drinks, smoothies and bars promote all-day protein consumption. Dairy proteins have a capability to easily blend with popular flavours to produce demand-driven products because of their mild flavour. The flavours are a big concern when other alternatives of proteins are chosen because they require an additional step to mask their own flavours. These proteins blend perfectly with vegetarian and flexitarian food preferences.

Dairy Proteins Provide Superior Sensory Characteristics: Dairy proteins are well suited as per the processing requirements of food formulators and the sensory needs of end consumers. The newly developed protein sources are still working on to align their capabilities through these challenges. Dairy proteins have mild-flavours and they exhibit sweet, aromatic and milky attributes. They are capable of easily enhancing the quality of a variety of food and beverage products that people can enjoy. While some plant protein sources exhibit stronger and less desirable beany, earthy, sulphurous and sour notes. In many applications, plant proteins require the use of flavour maskers and stabilisers to achieve consumer acceptance, which ultimately results in longer and more complicated ingredient statements. These benefits make dairy proteins as first preferences in order to have more versatile sensory experiences because they complement flavours of the foods and beverages rather than overpowering the flavours to which they are added.

Dairy Proteins Add Nutrition and Taste: Dairy proteins add nutrition to foods that are not naturally high in protein, without compromising on their taste profile. Various innovative products that incorporate dairy proteins are available in the market nowadays such as: snacks; baking mixes; beverages; and many more.

Other Benefits: Dairy protein provides multiple benefits when they are added to foods and beverages including: improved appearance; shelf life stability; improved texture; etc. Whey proteins can be easily added to the foods such as: smoothies; yoghurt; oatmeal; pasta; and others to increase the daily protein intake.


Dairy proteins have been successful in providing desirable attributes in a variety of foods and beverages that are meant for various age groups, not just for athletes for weight and health-conscious consumers. Various studies have reported that dairy proteins provide multiple health benefits such as: weight management, muscle, health maintenance in ageing; post-exercise recovery enhancement; etc. As people are becoming more aware of these products, the demand for high-quality protein is also increasing in each meal or snack. All in all the rapid growth of global food and beverage product launches with more protein claims has created an opportunity for a wide range of new protein applications in this domain.

* Associate Editor, Food Marketing and Technology Magazine (Sources Available on Demand)

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