NZMP, the ingredients business of global dairy company Fonterra, has taken note of consumers' interest in protein and has been doubling down on converting more of its roughly 2.3m tons of annual milk supply into value added ingredients, according to Kelly Fleming, category director for active nutrition at NZMP.
“We’re trying to build quite a large value added ingredients business by moving more of our milk solids out of base ingredients into advanced ingredients,” Fleming told FoodNavigator-USA at IFT last week.
But how will NZMP steer through all the marketing noise around protein? By highlighting its grass-fed, New Zealand provenance story, its sensory profile, and functional benefits of its whey protein ingredients such as its fast absorption curve compared to competitors, Fleming said.
The advantage of using NZMP dairy ingredients is the ability to use the ‘grass-fed’ claim, which is the fastest growing ethical claim, according to Innova Market Insights.
Fleming noted that part of the appeal of grass-fed claims is that it's easy for consumers to visualize, as it is typically associated with pleasant imagery of happy cows roaming freely in pastures eating lush grass all day long.
And that scene isn't far off - according to the company, on average, 85% of its cows’ diet is grass and dairy herds spend 90% of their time grazing freely outdoors in the temperate climate of New Zealand.
Permissibly indulgent products to be a focus
While NZMP will continue to cater to customers in the sports nutrition space, an emerging focus moving forward is targeting an everyday, active, but not fitness-obsessed consumer.
“The challenge as you move into mainstream foods is the taste and texture has to be outstanding because everyday consumers are less tolerant of things not tasting that good, compared to a guy or girl that goes to the gym and wants a boost a protein – they don’t necessarily care that much about what it tastes like,” Fleming said.
And not every product has to be a protein powerhouse, added Fleming, who said that adding moderate amounts of protein to a product is another market opportunity for the ingredients company.
NZMP’s major whey protein brand SureProtein comes in 120 different varieties formulated to fit a number of different products.
Part of the SureProtein portfolio is its Fast MPC 4868 protein ingredient that offers rapidly digestible milk proteins that the company claims provides muscles with a higher level of amino acids within the first two hours of consumption compared to standard milk offerings.
“[Fast MPC 4868] provides a new science story from which to engage consumers in the sports and healthy lifestyle segment, through taking milk protein concentrate from a ‘slow’ protein to a ‘fast’ protein,” NZMP stated.
Of particular interest to NZMP is adding some protein functionality to traditionally indulgent categories such as frozen dessert, confectionery, and baked goods.
“What we’re targeting is permissible indulgence,” Fleming said.
This trend of permissible indulgence that has been highlighted by market research firm Mintel and is partly the reason behind low-calorie, high protein ice cream brand Halo Top’s soaring success beating out traditional ice cream products.
At the show, NZMP developed a number of prototypes including a high protein ice cream, chocolate milk, and chocolate bar, all formulated to have an indistinguishable sensory profile compared to their conventional counterparts.
Another hurdle when incorporating high amounts of protein into a product is minimizing high-viscosity and grainy textures.
“Through some intellectual property we’ve been able to essentially functionalize that particular protein to perform well in a beverage, an ice cream, or a pudding, or a chocolate,” Fleming said.
“We’ve delivered on those taste and texture needs.”