Dairy’s healthful halo makes milk ingredients attractive additions to all types of beverages, from those designed to look like they contain milk to others that are colored and clear. Nutrition is typically the main reason for formulating with milk ingredients, but in some applications, it is also for the creamy, smooth flavor and mouthfeel milk ingredients provide.

“Milk ingredients offer a unique package of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, plus vitamins and minerals,” said Kimberlee Burrington, dairy ingredient applications coordinator, Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Historically many beverages have been high in sugar and void of nutrition. When milk ingredients become part of the formulation, you have a nutrient-dense beverage favored by today’s health-conscious consumer who recognizes the importance in consuming high-quality protein throughout the day.”

Peter Schouw Andersen, business development manager, Arla Foods Ingredients, Denmark, with U.S. headquarters in Basking Ridge, N.J., concurs.

“There’s a lot of positive talk about protein right now, and all the health benefits it offers,” he said. “This is very appealing to beverage manufacturers who want to move away from marketing products that are perceived to be unhealthy. Milk ingredients are the perfect solution in this scenario.”

Becoming a dry ingredient

Milk is a complex, perishable biological fluid that is highly regulated in the United States. For starters, a license is required to process raw fluid milk to manufacture fluid milk beverages and other dairy products. Further, the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (P.M.O.), published by the Food and Drug Administration, provides minimum standards and requirements for all Grade A dairy operations, including farms, transportation, processing and pasteurizing. Compliance with the P.M.O. is required for farms and manufacturing plants to ship Grade A milk interstate.

With many beverage companies trying to leverage dairy’s healthful halo by including dairy in product formulations, they are challenged with the regulations.

Depending on the application and the amount used, dried, powdered forms of milk and isolated milk components allow for the addition of dairy without complying with the P.M.O.

“However, beverages formulated to have more than 65% milk ingredients and 2% protein are regulated under the P.M.O.,” said Cary Frye, vice-president of regulatory and scientific affairs, International Dairy Foods Association, Washington. “There are some products excluded from the regulation, including infant formula, dietary products such as meal replacement shakes, and coffee and tea-based beverages.”

Even if P.M.O. compliance is required, beverage formulators know milk ingredients are easier to transport and store compared to fresh milk. The dried forms also provide year-round availability and consistency. They are produced to specification and designed for easy hydration. Blenders will even combine multiple dry beverage ingredients to simplify the manufacturing process and eliminate human error.

“Milk-derived ingredients can be used to boost the nutritional profile of milk-based drinks as well as other beverages,” said Vicky Fligel, business development manager — beverages, Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, Wis.

For example, Ito En North America, Brooklyn, N.Y., has introduced ready-to-drink Jay Street Coffees. The shelf-stable coffee-milk drinks rely on nonfat dry milk to provide the desired milky appearance consumers expect in a pick-me-up coffee-milk beverage. With 1 gram of protein in each 16.9-oz bottle, protein content is not prominent in the beverage.

It is, however, the focus of the South Beach Diet Snack Smoothies from South Beach Diet Corp., Bonita Springs, Fla. The ready-to-drink satiety-inducing smoothies pack 6 grams of protein in the form of whey protein concentrate (W.P.C.) and milk protein isolate (M.P.I.) into each 8-oz shelf-stable bottle.

Satiety is also the goal of the new Quaker Breakfast Shake from Quaker Oats Co., a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y. The shelf-stable, grab-and-go beverage combines protein from M.P.I. with fiber from oats and other sources to help consumers kick start the day and avoid mid-morning hunger pangs. Each 11.1-fluid-oz bottle contains 10 grams of protein.

Protein, along with hydration, is the intent behind BadgerMax Protein Boost. Ms. Burrington recently worked with two UW-Madison graduates to create BadgerMax Protein Boost.

“This protein-rich, clear isotonic beverage is made with whey protein isolate derived from cheese whey, which contains less than 1% fat to maintain optimal clarity,” she said. “Each 12-fluid-oz bottle contains 12 grams of protein, a similar ratio to the protein available in milk.”

Going for the protein

Nonfat dry milk long has been the go-to for milk protein fortification of beverages. As the name suggests, it is fat-free milk from which almost all water has been removed. The dried ingredient is basically protein (casein and whey) and the reducing-sugar lactose.

In recent years, whey proteins have emerged as functional and nutritional powerhouse dairy protein ingredients, as whey proteins contain all of the essential amino acids the human body needs and in the right proportion. Whey proteins are isolated and concentrated from either sweet whey, which is produced during the manufacture of rennet-type cheeses such as cheddar, or acid whey, which is a byproduct of such fermented dairy foods as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream.

Sweet whey is most commonly used to make ingredients such as W.P.C. and W.P.I., as acid whey has an undesirable sour flavor profile. It also varies in composition and its protein is low quality. Acid whey’s lactose is its most valuable component and historically has been used as animal feed. With an overabundance of acid whey from the boom in strained Greek yogurt production, suppliers are identifying ways to improve the flavor and quality of its isolated nutrients.

For example, Arla has introduced an innovative processing solution that involves combining acid whey with one of the company’s milk protein ingredients to produce an ingredient that is a good source of calcium, protein and essential amino acids. Applications include high-protein fermented drinks and whey smoothies.

The science behind protein intake

Protein is currently the most valued macronutrient in the food formulating world. But why, especially in America where most people consume enough dietary protein to prevent nutrient deficiency diseases and conditions?

Research during the past decade shows additional benefits may be experienced when protein is consumed above the recommended levels. Specifically, scientific evidence supports a diet rich in high-quality protein as an optimal strategy to improve appetite control, satiety and promote body-weight management across the lifespan. When combined with exercise, dietary protein also may help reduce the risk of age-related muscle loss known as sarcopenia.

To reap many of these benefits, research suggests that 30 grams of high-quality protein should be consumed at every meal, and preferably these proteins are high in the branched-chain essential amino acid (B.C.A.A.) leucine, which is a metabolic trigger for muscle protein synthesis. Research also shows that 2.5 grams is the threshold requirement for leucine to initiate muscle protein synthesis.

Whey proteins have been shown to provide an anabolic advantage over other proteins in promoting muscle health because of their higher level of leucine. Specifically, W.P.I. is about 11% leucine, making it the best source of all protein ingredients.

Davisco Foods International Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., markets a proprietary W.P.I. containing even more leucine: 13.1%. Since it contains a higher level of leucine, less is needed to achieve 2.5 grams of leucine. This translates to lower usage levels and fewer calories needed to achieve optimal muscle health.

“This high-quality, ultra-pure W.P.I. delivers all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body, without added carbohydrates and fat,” said Phanin Leksrisompong, director of business development at Davisco. “Made from pasteurized cheese whey by ion exchange technology, it has superior functionality, solubility and clean flavor. It is ideal for nutrition enhancement of many types of foods and beverages. The instantized ingredient provides very high solubility, clarity in solution, clean taste and high nutritional quality with at least 95% protein on a dry-basis.”

Ms. Fligel agreed that whey proteins are a convenient ingredient for boosting the protein content of beverages.

“The popularity of protein-enhanced beverages now reaches beyond elite athletes and professional body builders to people at all life stages,” she said “The greatest growth is among the mainstream who simply replace an unhealthy fast meal with a tasty beverage with all the nourishing components needed. Thanks to innovations in whey protein ingredients, beverages with these properties can be found in a variety of flavor profiles, providing added appeal to consumers.

“For example, we offer patented pre-acidified whey proteins that have desirable organoleptic and functional characteristics, including significantly improved flavor, odor, tartness and sweetness compared to conventionally processed acidified whey protein.”

Chr. Hansen Inc., Denmark, with U.S. offices in Milwaukee, has developed a probiotic fermented fruity whey drink made with sweet whey powder.

“Sweet whey powder is an inexpensive raw material and contains many healthy components such as whey proteins, minerals and vitamins,” said Mirjana Curic-Bawden, senior scientist, application manager — fermented milk and probiotics, cultures and enzymes. “Sweet whey also contains high levels of lactose, which is not sweet by itself. We enzymatically convert the lactose to glucose and galactose, which brings out the inherent sweetness of the whey and allows for a reduction of sweetener.

“This turnkey ingredient system and production process is available to beverage manufacturers to get into the whey protein beverage business with minimal investment in product development. The finished product is light and refreshing with a texture and mouthfeel somewhere between juice and drinking yogurt. The level of protein and other ingredients in the final product can be adjusted to the required flavor or nutrition profile.”

Arla Foods recently introduced a whey protein hydrolysate that offers nutritional benefits to athletes who require fast recovery after intense competitive events or training and workout sessions, according to the company. It may be incorporated into sports nutrition beverages at high levels without contributing astringency, an undesirable sensory attribute that results in a dry and rough sensation in the mouth and is common in such high-protein recovery beverages.

“With this ingredient, it is possible to create sports nutrition beverages containing as much as 40 grams of protein per 100 milliliters without any astringency,” Mr. Andersen said.

It is completely soluble, providing manufacturers with an excellent opportunity to create completely clear ready-to-drink sports nutrition beverages.

The milk ingredients category includes options beyond whey protein.

“For example, dairy-derived peptides and B.C.A.A.s can provide added value for beverages, including support for muscle growth and development,” Ms. Fligel said. “New technology platforms include high-leucine ingredients content and whey peptides that do not produce sedimentation in beverage applications.”

Another option is milk protein concentrate (M.P.C.), which is a general term for concentrated milk ingredients that contain 40% to 90% milk proteins in the form of casein, whey proteins and bioactive proteins, in the same ratio found in milk. Typically made from skim milk, M.P.C. has a nominal fat content and is also low in lactose.

An emerging dairy ingredient category is known as permeate. Permeate covers a family of products that have a minimum of 59% lactose and a maximum of 10% protein and 27% ash.

“The composition of permeate will vary somewhat depending on the starting material,” Ms. Burrington said. Sweet whey and milk are the most common starting materials for permeate production in the United States.

“Formulating any beverage with milk proteins is challenging,” Mr. Andersen said. “Dairy proteins have a tendency to interact with their surroundings whenever they are put into a liquid, which creates an extra layer of difficulty when they are added to beverage applications. Typical problems encountered include discoloration and impaired flavor. UHT beverages are among the most difficult applications, because they involve the use of high temperatures, and dairy proteins are very sensitive to heat. However, difficult does not mean impossible.”

This is exemplified by recent marketplace introductions and the many new milk ingredient-enhanced beverages on the horizon.