Linda Ohr

Linda Milo Ohr

Women exercising in pink shirt

Whey proteins are associated with muscle health, including protecting against age-related muscle mass decline. © gradyreese/E+/Gety Images

Women exercising in pink shirt

Whey proteins are associated with muscle health, including protecting against age-related muscle mass decline. © gradyreese/E+/Gety Images

Dairy foods address several of today’s consumer trends: They are natural, whole food sources of nutrients, and considered clean label. In addition, dairy foods and dairy-based ingredients offer many health benefits. “In 2020, the positive reviews for dairy foods continued to stack up in the areas of inflammation and bone health,” observes Kristi Saitama, vice president – ingredient marketing, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). Two recent meta-analyses looked at these areas. Nieman et al. (2020) suggested that dairy products and dairy proteins have neutral to beneficial effects on biomarkers of inflammation. Wallace et al. (2020) showed that daily intake of low or nonfat dairy products as part of a healthy habitual dietary pattern may be associated with improved bone mineral density and fewer fractures in older adults.

“This is on top of the growing body of research showing benefits from full-fat dairy, including lower diabetes risk,” says Saitama. Imamura et al. (2018), for example, looked at the effects of dairy fat on type 2 diabetes. In this meta-analysis, researchers found that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fats (15:0, 17:0) and trans-palmitoleic acid (t16: 1n7), which reflect dairy fat consumption, were associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Dairy foods/beverages and dairy ingredients provide the ideal source of protein and milk minerals like calcium that remain one of the basic nutritional needs of people from birth until the golden years,” adds Max Maxwell, manager market intelligence, strategy & development, Glanbia Nutritionals. “Dairy is the dominant source of protein in beverages. Consumers consider calcium and protein key ingredients to boost their immune health (FMCG GURUS: Ingredients – What’s Hot for 2021 November 2020) as they struggle to cope with COVID-19, and there are no better food sources of calcium and protein than dairy ingredients,” he says.

The versatility of dairy ingredients extends beyond typical dairy-based beverages and yogurts. “USDEC developed menu/product concepts inspired by favorite foods and flavors from around the world to showcase how the versatility and functionality of U.S. dairy ingredients can help food and beverage manufacturers meet consumer demands—global flavors and diverse textures with balanced nutrition,” says Saitama. For example, vegetable-stuffed dumplings can be an excellent source of protein. “By combining high-quality dairy protein with flour for the dough, we’ve found you can deliver 11 g of protein in a serving size of 140 g or four dumplings. Compared to the control, we were also able to create a 37% sodium reduction in a great-tasting sauce by adding whey permeate,” she says. Another innovative example, a piña colada (alcoholic or nonalcoholic) contains whey protein concentrate, providing protein in an indulgent beverage.

Here is a look at some of the ingredients that add dairy’s nutritional benefits to today’s foods and beverages.


“Dairy ingredients can meet a wide range of current market needs, but the most obvious is the high-protein trend,” notes Laima Liepinyte, business development manager, health & performance nutrition, Arla Foods Ingredients. “Protein-enriched products are now established in the mainstream—you don’t have to be a gym enthusiast to be aware of protein’s benefits in areas like satiety and weight management.”

Pina Colada in glass with garnish

Dairy-based ingredients can add nutrition to a variety of foods and beverages not typically associated with dairy foods. © Ivenks/Getty Images Plus

Pina Colada in glass with garnish

Dairy-based ingredients can add nutrition to a variety of foods and beverages not typically associated with dairy foods. © Ivenks/Getty Images Plus

Dairy protein ingredients include milk proteins, whey proteins, and casein. They can help support weight management, muscle maintenance, and exercise recovery. “While dairy ingredients, and especially whey proteins, have documented benefits in a range of health areas such as immune health, metabolic health, and mental well-being, the biggest body of research lies within the benefits of whey protein in sports nutrition and muscular health,” says Liepinyte. “Protein is the main building block in our bodies, and whey protein contains all the essential amino acids in well-balanced amounts. It also allows them to be rapidly distributed to the muscles,” she says.

Arla Foods Ingredients offers several whey protein hydrolysates that address muscle health. The company recently launched a whey protein ingredient that is clinically shown to counteract age-related muscle mass decline. “Thanks to advances in medical technology, people are living longer than ever before. However, age brings many changes to health, one of which is a natural decline in skeletal muscle mass and function,” says Liepinyte. “This can have a devastating effect on mobility and quality of life, but whey protein, in combination with exercise, can help slow the decline.” Lacprodan HYDRO.Rebuild is a 100% hydrolyzed whey protein that offers highly accessible content of branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids such as leucine, which are important for muscle synthesis in seniors.

In three separate clinical trials in resistance-trained older women, Lacprodan HYDRO.Rebuild was shown to offer significant improvements to muscle mass, strength, and mobility, as well as reducing body fat. Nabuco et al. (2019), for example, demonstrated that higher protein intake combined with resistance training promoted greater improvements in skeletal muscle mass, percentage body fat, waist circumference, and metabolic syndrome–related parameters in older women.

Another ingredient from Arla Foods Ingredients, Lacprodan ISO.Water is a whey protein ideal for use in ready-to-drink clear protein beverages. The whey protein isolate contains at least 90% protein and can be used to produce crystal clear UHT drinks, powdered beverages, and gels.

Dairy proteins come in various forms, allowing them to be used in a wide variety of products like clear beverages.

Dairy proteins come in various forms, allowing them to be used in a wide variety of products like clear beverages. Milk and whey concentrates, isolates, and crisps lend themselves to bars, beverages, shakes, beverage powder mixes, baked goods, prepared meals, and snacks.

• Grande Custom Ingredients offers whey protein crisps as well as whey protein concentrates and isolates. Grande WPCrisp, for example, can be used in snack bars to add not only a dairy-based protein source, but also a crunchy texture and clean, neutral flavor. Crisps can be customized in size, shape, color, flavor, and protein levels from 25% to 80%.

Glanbia Nutritionals

The nutritional components derived from dairy include proteins, phospholipids, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive peptides. Photo courtesy of Glanbia Nutritionals

Glanbia Nutritionals

The nutritional components derived from dairy include proteins, phospholipids, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive peptides. Photo courtesy of Glanbia Nutritionals

• Glanbia Nutritionals’ range of dairy-based proteins have the same ratio of micellar casein and whey protein naturally found in milk. “Our ingredients like Provon whey protein isolate and Avonlac whey protein concentrate offer high levels of caseinomacropeptide,” says Corbin Hohl, bioactives team lead, Glanbia Nutritionals. Caseinomacropeptide plays a role in increased efficiency of protein digestion. Avonlac whey protein concentrates offer a protein content from 34% to 80% and can be used in infant nutrition, dairy products, dry mixes, beverage mixes, and bakery products. Provon whey protein isolates contain the full spectrum of undenatured proteins naturally found in whey. Provon’s applications include fortified beverages, nutrition bars, dietetic products, dairy/frozen desserts, sports beverages, and nutritional dry mixes.

• Leprino Nutrition sells a wide range of dairy ingredients, including whey protein isolates and concentrates, native micellar casein concentrate, lactose, and sweet whey. The company’s whey protein isolates are instantized and ideal for powdered protein supplements. The clean taste profile of Leprino’s whey protein concentrates makes them an excellent choice for powdered beverages and protein bars.

Leprino’s native micellar casein concentrate is a clean, pure dairy protein microfiltered directly from Grade A milk, without bleaching or extra processing. “An undenatured, intact casein, our Native MCC provides a clean flavor profile, exceptional functional properties, and compelling application benefits,” says Keri Thiel, director, marketing, Leprino Nutrition. “This slow-absorbing, calcium-rich, heat-stable protein has a high protein content and performs well in a wide variety of applications including coffee creamer, dairy beverages, processed cheese, yogurts, baked goods, and more.”

• Milk Specialties offers ZERLAC lactose-free high-protein dairy ingredients, which contain all the essential amino acids needed to help promote muscle and bone health, satisfy hunger, and deliver great taste,  while removing the possibility of consumer discomfort. ZERLAC is available in either whey protein isolate (WPI90) or milk protein isolate (MPI90), each ingredient containing 90% protein.

• Hilmar Ingredients supplies whey protein concentrates, isolates, and hydrolysates. Within the whey protein concentrate line, Hilmar offers specialty proteins including lactose-free, high-gelling, and alpha-lactalbumin enriched. The Hilmar whey protein hydrolysate line includes several levels of hydrolysis for options in flavor, texture improvement, and nutritional value. The line of Hilmar whey protein isolates includes proteins for clear beverages, dry mixes, and low pH formulations.

• Idaho Milk Products produces 80%–90% protein powders under the IdaPro brand name. IdaPro Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) and Milk Protein Isolate (MPI) deliver casein and whey proteins in the same unaltered ratio in fresh milk. The company’s MPC and MPI deliver high quality milk proteins in their purest, most natural form, along with easy-to-absorb important milk minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc—some of which are chelated with the milk proteins.


Dairy is a source of important minerals, like calcium and phosphorus, which play a key role in bone health. While consumers are familiar mostly with calcium for strong bones, other dairy nutrients also contribute to bone health. “Bones need other sources of minerals besides just calcium,” says Mayuresh Bedekar, director product strategy – bioactives, Glanbia Nutritionals. “Other common forms of calcium lack the additional essential minerals necessary to support bone health. TruCal is a balanced milk mineral complex delivering seven minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, and copper) for optimal bone health.”

TruCal is ideal for supplement applications like tablets and capsules and for food applications like powdered drink mixes, dairy, and other ready-to-drink beverages, bars, snacks, yogurts, and cheese. TruCal contains minerals sourced directly from cow’s milk, delivering them in ratios similar to the composition of bone. This natural balance supports the growth and maintenance of bone strength and structure.


Dairy permeate, or dairy product solids, is a high-lactose ingredient produced through the removal of protein and other solids from milk or whey. “As consumers demand better-for-you options across categories, manufacturers are turning to dairy permeate as an attractive, multifunctional ingredient,” says Saitama. “Much of permeate’s growing popularity can be attributed to its versatility and cost effectiveness in delivering benefits such as flavor extension, nutritional minerals, as well as sodium reduction (in general, 10–11 g of permeate can replace 1 g of salt).”

Saitama cites data from Innova Market Insights’ Innova Database showing that new product introductions containing permeate reached an all-time high of 531 products in 2019. This was up 11% from 2018 and double the number of introductions in 2015. 

“While permeate is used and tracked as an ingredient across many categories, bakery leads with a 28.2% share of new product launches using permeate in 2019, or one in four products launched. Confectionery ranked second at 15.1%, followed by hot drinks at 12.4%, dairy at 12.2%, and snacks at 7.7%. These categories have all seen growth from 2014 to 2019,” she says.


“Immune function and support have received new focus due to the current global pandemic,” says Hohl. “Researchers are utilizing ingredients such as lactoferrin, caseinomacropeptide, and other bioactive dairy fractions for immune modulation and support,” he adds. Glanbia’s Bioferrin provides purified lactoferrin extracted from sweet whey, in a powdered format ready for various applications. It is a natural source of iron, an effective antimicrobial, and has been shown to support immune function.

In addition to Bioferrin, Glanbia Nutritionals offers a range of bioactives that are precisely formulated to improve cell, organ, and overall body function. The bioactives line addresses muscle growth, weight management, and heart health.

Ingredia also offers dairy bioactives that address several health concerns. Lactium, for example, is a milk protein hydrolysate that contains a unique bioactive decapeptide. This decapeptide, also called alpha-casozepine, is believed to be naturally released in babies who just consumed milk. It has been shown to reduce stress-related symptoms, both from chronic and acute stress.


Phospholipids are building blocks of cell membranes, are found in higher concentrations in the brain, and have various regulatory and structural functions. Companies offer milk phospholipids, which are part of the milk fat globule membrane. Milk phospholipids have been shown to potentially benefit memory and cognitive performance under stress. Fonterra offers NZMP Milk Phospholipids 70. The company has developed product concepts showcasing what can be created with the ingredient, including a Stress-Buster Granola Bar with 400 mg milk phospholipids.


Bovine colostrum, the milky fluid that comes from the udder of cows the first few days after giving birth, contains antibodies, growth factors, and other nutrients that may help support immunity. Colostrum is often sold as a dietary supplement.

Recently, PanTheryx, a biotechnology company, announced that an independent expert panel of scientists affirmed its bovine colostrum as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for specific food and beverage uses. The GRAS recognition relates to PanTheryx’s proprietary colostrum, which is a nutritionally active ingredient containing immunoglobulins as well as immune and growth factors that provide gastrointestinal, immune, and other health benefits.


Imamura, F., A. Fretts, M. Marklund, et al. 2018. “Fatty Acid Biomarkers of Dairy Fat Consumption and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes: A Pooled Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies,” PLoS Med. 15(10): e1002670.

Nabuco, H. C. G., C. M. Tomeleri, R. R. Fernandes, et al. 2019. “Effects of Protein Intake Beyond Habitual Intake Associated with Resistance Training on Metabolic Syndrome-Related Parameters, Isokinetic Strength, and Body Composition in Older Women.” J. Aging Phys. Act. 27(4): 545–552.

Nieman, K. M., B. D. Anderson, C. J. Cifelli. 2020. “The Effects of Dairy Product and Dairy Protein Intake on Inflammation: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 1: 1–12.

Wallace, T. C., R. L. Bailey, J. Lappe, et al. 2020. “Dairy Intake and Bone Health Across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review and Expert Narrative.” Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 14: 1–47.

About the Author

Linda Milo Ohr is a food scientist and writer based in Highlands Ranch, Colo. ([email protected]).
Linda Ohr

In This Article

  1. Dairy