The whey after tomorrow?

Related tags Value added

Food manufacturers have "barely scratched the surface" when it comes to realising the full potential of whey as a value-added ingredient, according...

Food manufacturers have "barely scratched the surface" when it comes to realising the full potential of whey as a value-added ingredient, according to experts gathered at 'WheyVolution' in Paris.While some whey derivatives were showing double-digit growth and overall volumes were expected to grow 6% annually until 2010, many ingredients suppliers had "failed to convince mass market players about added value whey products", argued Iris Consulting director Richard Field, who has just conducted an analysis of the $5bn whey market. "Consumer awareness is low and there is a major marketing exercise to be done to bring whey truly into the mainstream as a health ingredient," he said. But the trade also needed educating: "If you asked the average UK supermarket buyer what he thought of glycomacropeptide [a bioactive from whey connected to cardiovascular health], I suspect you'd get some pretty blank looks."

Nevertheless, recent launches from Starbucks (which has a new whey-based drink called Vivanno) and PepsiCo (which has launched whey-protein-enriched crisps under the Frito-Lay brand) could only help raise awareness, even if consumers were not sure precisely why whey was good for them, said Olivier Klein, md at the ingredients division of Lactalis.

He added: "Whey used to be thrown in the river; then it was sprayed on the fields; next it was fed to pigs, and finally it was fed to humans. 2007 was a really important year in the story of whey: for the first time, whey became the product, not just a by-product, but there is still a long way to go."

Meanwhile, Patrick Mannion at market researcher Innova Market Insights, said he was "quite astonished" by the sheer volume of academic studies about whey, which linked it to everything from satiety to cholesterol-reduction, mineral absorption, sports recovery, blood pressure reduction, gut health, immune system health, dental health and skin health.

"More than half (56%) of the patents posted in the last two years were about nutrition [as opposed to processing techniques], so this shows where the industry is placing its bets now," he said.

The application of whey protein as a key weapon in the fight against sarcopenia was particularly exciting, said professor Bruce German from the Nestlé Research Centre at the University of California, Davis.

"Clinical trials show that uniquely, whey proteins have the ability to simulate muscle re-synthesis in elderly people. That's unparalleled. Why don't people recognise the goldmine of resource in whey proteins?"

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