'Full control over the value chain': Arla enters partnership with First Milk over whey production

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Whey Protein Whey protein Sports nutrition Nutrition Arla foods ingredients Health claims

First Milk will manufacture specialist whey protein powder for Arla Foods Ingredients, enabling it to address the growing consumer trend for protein-enriched foods.

Using a proprietary method, Arla Foods Ingredients will make the Nutrilac FO-7875 microparticulate whey protein concentrate, which is used as an ingredient to enhance the level of protein in food and drink products, particularly yogurts, without affecting texture and taste. According to the cooperative, the ingredient can enable drinking yogurt formulations with 11% protein and just 0.8% fat.

It will be made at First Milk’s Lake District Creamery, where it also makes Lake District Dairy Co. cheddar cheese.

“This partnership will significantly increase our ability to meet the current high demand for specialized protein solutions, as well as allowing us to release raw material for other purposes,”​ Henrik Andersen, CEO Arla Foods Ingredients, told DairyReporter. “First Milk and Arla Foods are both co-operatives, and it’s a great advantage to produce high-quality, whey-based ingredients in co-op mode. This enables full control over the value chain, meaning that our customers benefit from stability and uniform quality. In this case, there will be an improved supply of one our leading protein concepts, and one that is gaining a lot of traction – protein-enriched dairy drinks.”

Going forward, the two co-ops will work closely to implement Arla’s proprietary technologies at the production plant.

Production experience that goes whey back

First Milk has vast experience as a supply partner in the dairy and food sector. It has produced whey protein powder, specifically WPC80, for many years. This was originally done in a joint venture with New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra and then as a sole owner since 2019 in a sales and distribution partnership with Havero Hoogwegt, which remains in place.

A spokesperson for First Milk commented: “This new partnership with Arla Foods Ingredients will allow us to expand the range of high-quality, specialist products we manufacture, which will deliver real value for both co-operatives. We will work very closely with the Arla Foods Ingredients team to ensure product specifications are consistently met.”

Protein-enriched foods: an escalating trend

Dairy proteins have traditionally been highly sought-after by protein food and beverage manufacturers looking for neutral-tasting ingredients to enrich their products with. The protein found in whey is considered a ‘complete protein’ since it contains all essential amino acids and also benefits from good digestibility.

Even with significant R&D efforts in place and continuous innovation, plant-based proteins rank somewhat behind dairy in terms of taste and texture and require additional ‘masking’ to achieve the desired flavor profile and digestibility.

According to Maximize Market Research, the protein drinks market is set to double its size this decade, reaching a value of US$41.5bn in 2029 from US$21.45bn in 2021. The powder segment dominates the market, while protein-enriched RTD drinks hold the second largest share.

Today, consumers of all ages are interested in the health benefits that functional protein beverages bring, and there’s growing demand for natural and organic beverages that don’t include artificial additives.

According to proprietary research conducted by Kerry, consumers aged between 43 to 54 in the US want more than 20g per serving of protein in their beverages, while older consumers use protein beverages to combat muscle mass decline and boost bone health.

Taste remains paramount to all consumers, however, with dairy alternatives solutions specialist Givaudan highlighting that all consumers look for RTD drinks with ‘an authentic, natural taste and a creamy texture’.

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