KANSAS CITY — As more mainstream consumers, and not just professional athletes and dedicated body builders, seek sports nutrition products, food and beverage formulators may consider targeting niche markets. Think millennials, people with allergies or people seeking clean label or free-from products.

The source of protein in such products becomes important in these scenarios. Besides dairy and soy, protein may be sourced from chicken and almonds. Whatever the protein source, formulators also may wish to consider the amount of creatine, glutamine and leucine in the protein source.

FrieslandCampina DMV took millennials into account in its Nutri Whey Native whey protein ingredient line. A consumer research effort sought to understand the needs of millennials.

“In this recent insights and innovation study executed in the U.K. and U.S., we discovered that naturalness of ingredients is an important value that is increasingly seen as a necessity,” said Benjamin Maclean, product group manager. “Offering more natural concepts based on a few pure ingredients can create exciting opportunities for our customers to engage new audiences and grow their businesses.”

Natural protein ingredientsNutri Whey Native is derived from raw milk with minimal processing and ceramic micro-filtration as purification, which preserves the pure native proteins in the milk. Nutri Whey Native has a high concentration of leucine, a factor in muscle protein synthesis. FrieslandCampina DMV will provide samples with Nutri Whey Native during IFT18, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago July 15-18.

“Consumers around the world are seeking more natural and less processed food and supplements with proven health benefits,” Mr. Maclean said. “This trend is observed in the sports nutrition space, and at the same time, there is a fast-growing lifestyle ‘active consumers’ segment interested in nutrition and healthy living. Convergence of these segments has created market potential for protein-enriched nutrition products with a natural positioning, targeting both serious athletes and new mainstream consumers looking to fuel a more active lifestyle.”

Addressing the issue of allergens

People seeking to avoid ingredients associated with allergens are a target audience for sports products with ChikPro chicken protein isolate powder from International Dehydrated Foods, Springfield, Mo. ChikPro is free of gluten, dairy and soy, and it is a “friendly” ingredient for people following specialty diets such as ketogenic and paleo, said Stephanie Lynch, vice-president of sales, marketing and technology for I.D.F.

“Many sports nutrition products are made with soy or whey, which can be good options for some, while others may be avoiding dairy, lactose or soy-based products,” she said. “While soy and whey are mainstream in protein supplement products, the fact is, many people are allergic to these (and other) common sources of protein. Dairy, wheat and soy are present on the list of eight major food allergens.”

ChikPro is low in sodium at 25 mg per 100 grams. It has a potassium:sodium ratio of 2:1. ChikPro is rich in electrolytes and offers 13 grams of glutamine, an essential amino acid, per 100 grams.

“Glutamine is important for sports nutrition products because the body will break down protein stores (muscle) to release this amino acid if it isn’t able to produce an adequate amount,” Ms. Lynch said. “Additionally, it may help improve recovery after exercise.”

ChikPro also contains leucine, isoleucine and valine.

Chik-Pro Meat-Snx“These three essential amino acids make up about 35% of the body’s muscle protein,” Ms. Lynch said. “They are important in sports nutrition products because they provide fuel for muscles and minimize the breakdown of proteins during exercise.”

Bar and beverage formulators may incorporate chicken protein into both sweet and savory applications, she added.

Almonds are a source of glutamine and other amino acids, including branched chain amino acids (B.C.A.A.s), said Jeff Smith, director of marketing, Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division

“While 90% of glutamine is produced in the body, it is important for athletes to maintain healthy levels of this amino acid by consuming naturally protein-rich foods,” he said.

He added, “Almonds are nutritionally dense and have long been regarded as a satisfying, versatile way to fuel healthy, active lifestyles. Whether eaten alone, formulated in a bar or included in the ingredient mix of your favorite product, almonds and almond products are an easy way for formulators and consumers alike to add powerful nutrition and crunch to pre-workout or post-workout bars, snacks and meals.”

Breaking down different proteins

Some formulators may wish to investigate the differences between plant proteins and dairy proteins when creating a sports nutrition product.

“Dairy proteins are typically more neutral in taste compared to plant proteins,” said Brent Petersen, senior director, ingredients/bioactives, research and development for Glanbia Nutritionals, Chicago. “Dairy (proteins are) easy to flavor and lend themselves nicely to chocolate and vanilla flavors due to some of the dairy flavor notes they provide. Typically plant proteins offer more flavor challenges from some of the flavor off-notes that naturally come with the product such as beany or grassy. Plant proteins can also provide a more grainy mouthfeel when compared to a dairy protein like whey protein.”

Dairy protein products - Muscle Milk and AtkinsDairy proteins offer nine essential amino acids and a high concentration of B.C.A.A.s. Glanbia Nutritionals offers both dairy-based and plant-based proteins.

“While plant proteins tend to have lower quality amino acid profiles compared to dairy proteins, plant proteins can be combined to achieve a high quality amino acid profile,” Mr. Petersen said.

Companies may seek plant protein sources because of label claim goals or to reach a niche market.

“Dairy protein would provide all of the amino acids and nutrition you would need to achieve recovery on its own,” Mr. Petersen said. “So, there wouldn’t necessarily be any additional nutritional benefit to combining both dairy and plant proteins, but there could be an untapped market looking for such applications.”

One nutritional benefit, creatine, occurs naturally in the body, said Mayuresh Bedekar, senior global product manager – bioactives for Glanbia Nutritionals. It provides energy for anaerobic activity. In sports, creatine increases cellular energy supplies, enhances anaerobic exercise capacity, increases training volume, and leads to greater gains in strength, power and muscle mass.

“Standard sources of creatine have poor stability and are not stable in water due to the degradation to creatinine,” Mr. Bedekar said. “Creatine is readily degraded to creatinine when stored at room temperature. Creatinine is the waste product derived from creatine and provides no benefits to the body. Creatinine is removed from the body as waste.”

CreaBev, an ingredient from Glanbia Nutritionals, is stable and soluble in water and neutral pH beverages with less degradation, he said. A soluble source of creatine for ready-to-drink beverages, it is heat stable during U.H.T. (ultra-high temperature processing) with no crystallization and offers improved dispersion for ready-to-mix powdered beverages. PepForm creatine from Glanbia Nutritionals is a peptide carrier technology that improves the solubility and utilization of various insoluble bioactive components, including creatine and other amino acids.

DuPont Nutrition & Health, now part of DowDuPont, Inc., last year introduced Supro XT55 soy protein isolate as a way to improve the profitability of ready-to-drink, high-protein beverages by helping manufacturers more effectively manage protein costs. Supro XT55 has been shown to replace up to 50% of the dairy protein in beverage applications without compromising sensory performance or protein nutrition. Supro XT55 delivers lower viscosity and improved protein stability when compared to previous soy protein technologies, according to DuPont Nutrition & Health.