Vegan dairy alternatives are a booming market, and innovation is coming from new brands, product launches and ingredients. While not large enough to topple the traditional dairy industry, the popularity of plant-based non-dairy beverages and vegan ‘cheese’ ingredients has impacted the food and beverage industries.
At the IFT 2018 expo in Chicago, dairy substitutes were well-represented alongside traditional dairy, reflecting the market and responding to consumer demand. USDEC and NDC spoke with DairyReporter about the benefits of dairy ingredients and how they compare to the market-leading plant-based alternatives.
According to Kara McDonald of USDEC and Bill Graves of NDC, the amino acids and nutritional qualities that dairy protein ingredients, like whey protein isolate and concentrates, offer are ‘unmatched’ among competitors.
“You might have to use more plant-based proteins to get the same delivery of proteins because the whey proteins and the milk proteins are such high quality. They contain more of those amino acids so you can actually use less of them in a formulation. But also, the flavor of dairy is a strong advantage and there’s a dairy ingredient for almost any type of application,” McDonald said.
The dairy organizations developed a few high-protein snack prototypes for IFT, like lemon ginger ice pops and savory Asian granola, that showcased the power of the whey protein isolate ingredient.
Whey protein isolate contains no less than 90% protein, making it the dairy ingredient with the highest whey protein concentration. It has very little lactose and milkfat and it’s typically used in yogurt recipes for its textural, nutritional and flavor properties.
USDEC and NDC used whey protein isolate in the ice pops and topped the granola with whey protein crisps to address the market demand for healthy and on-the-go snacks that satisfy and deliver functionality.
McDonald and Graves highlighted the benefits of high-protein dairy snacks for people of all ages, including those with an active lifestyle and senior citizens looking to up their protein intake. Their goal at IFT was “raising awareness of the complete package that dairy proteins can bring.”
This hasn’t been an easy task recently, considering the issues US dairy farmers and manufacturers have faced as a result of the tariff negotiations President Donald Trump has engaged in with trading partners Canada, Mexico and China.
McDonald acknowledged that it’s something out of their control, but emphasized the importance of staying on top of the situation.
“What we can control is our commitment to the customers. We have been out there telling our global markets that this is something we will overcome. We’re in this for the long haul and we’re definitely still committed to being a global supplier,” she said.
“We know that there will be bumps in the road. What we are proactively doing is just communicating to everyone we can the value of trade.”