IFT 2017

USDEC on dairy health benefits: ‘We’re strong in the science but not as strong in communication to consumers’

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy protein contains the highest amount of amino acids compared to other proteins, according to National Dairy Council. ©iStock/nevodka
Dairy protein contains the highest amount of amino acids compared to other proteins, according to National Dairy Council. ©iStock/nevodka
USDEC, in partnership with the National Dairy Council, has been at the forefront of dairy protein research and has uncovered some of its health benefits, but has struggled communicating its positives attributes to consumers.

“Part of the challenge is a lot of our communication is B2B, so were not always getting to the consumer,”​ Terri Rexroat, VP of US trade services at USDEC, told DairyReporter at IFT.

“We’re strong in the science but not as strong in communication to consumers; what it means to them and why it’s good.”

The rising consumer interest in plant protein has made this even more of a challenge, according to Rexroat.

“Competing with the plant proteins is pretty challenging,”​ she said. “We have not been vocal or sometimes coordinated enough to get that messaging out there and that’s something we’re working more on now.”

Part of the coordinated effort is the Undeniably Dairy campaign​, which aimed to promote transparency within the dairy industry through mass media channels.

Dairy protein prototypes

To bridge the knowledge gap about the healthy benefits of dairy protein, USDEC created four prototypes to showcase at IFT – a frozen matcha dairy bar, whey protein cherry switchel, milk and honey bedtime beverage, and reduced-sodium protein udon soup – each of which tap into key consumers trends such as on-the-go nutrition, healthy aging, reduced sodium, and globally-inspired flavors.

For example, the milk and honey bedtime beverage with 20 grams of protein per serving was developed to take advantage of the 53% of consumers (according to GlobalData) that believe hot drinks can offer health benefits and 71% of consumers who consider recreating café-style hot drinks at-home achievable or very achievable.

The drink also falls in line the National Dairy Council’s research on the prominent role dairy protein plays in muscle recovery especially while at rest.

All proteins are not the same

Protein quality and clean label applications are the key focus areas of the National Dairy Council’s research currently, according to director of nutrition research, Moises Torres-Gonzalez, PhD.

“I feel like this is a new concept that still doesn’t resonate with consumers,” ​Gonzalez told DairyReporter.

“All proteins are not the same and a lot of consumers, and even in the food industry, don’t understand that.”

Protein quality is determined by its amino acid composition and whether it contains the nine amino acids the body cannot produce on its own. The National Dairy Council has found that dairy proteins contains a high level of those amino acids.

“If you’re eating protein that doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, you can eat as much as that but you’re not going to get all the amino acids that you need,”​ Gonzalez said.

“Consuming dairy proteins is much more efficient.”

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