While innovative ways to use whey protein in sports nutrition products continue to appear, formulators should be aware of other potential trends to tap. Whey protein suppliers at the SupplySide West Global Expo and Conference Nov. 5-9 in Las Vegas spoke about other categories such as coconut water, gluten-free products and products for the elderly.

Hilmar Ingredients, Hilmar, Calif., used its 9420 whey protein isolate to add 8 grams of protein per cup in a lemon coconut water prototype. A simple ingredient list included water, coconut water, whey protein isolate, lemon juice concentrate and stevia.

A lemon iced tea prototype with 9420 whey protein isolate had 11 grams of protein per cup and was intended for older adults who may want more protein to deal with such issues as sarcopenia, which refers to an age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.

According to Hilmar Ingredients, 9420 whey protein isolate is designed for low pH applications. Possible applications include fortified juices, ready-to-drink beverages and clear acidic beverages.

Whey protein isolate from Davisco Foods International, Eden Prairie, Minn., may be used in such applications as protein water mixes, oatmeal and energy bars, said Dan Mackenzie-Olson, national sales manager. He added whey protein, which has binding capabilities, may give a nutritional boost to gluten-free products.

Davisco Foods International offers alpha-lactalbumin whey protein isolate that is soluble and has a bland, neutral taste.

Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, Wis., featured a high-acid ginger pear beverage at SupplySide West. It had 8 grams of protein per 8-oz serving through a blend of soy protein isolate and whey protein isolate.

Grande Custom Ingredients Group, Lomira, Wis., featured a peanut butter and chocolate chip nutrition bar at SupplySide West that had 7 grams of protein in its 50 grams. The bar included the company’s WPCrisp, a whey protein ingredient that comes in protein levels of 50%, 60% and 70%. At the 50% level, texture in the product is more airy. Potential applications include nutrition bars, snack mix and cereal.

The company also offers Grande Ultra that has been shown to work in a variety of beverage applications without clouding. Grande Custom Ingredients created a ready-to-drink yogurt smoothie with Grande Ultra that had 10 grams of protein in an 8-oz serving.

More whey protein innovation was to be demonstrated at Hi Europe Nov. 13-15 in Frankfurt, Germany. Arla Foods Ingredients planned to introduce Lacprodan Hydro.365 whey protein hydrolysate. It may be incorporated into sports nutrition beverages at levels as high as 40 grams of protein per 100 ml.

“Until now, consumers wanting high-protein sports nutrition drinks have had to put up with astringency, making these products acceptable to only the most dedicated athletes,” said Peter Schouw Andersen, business development manager for Health & Performance at Arla Foods Ingredients. “But Hydro.365 is unusual among whey proteins in that it can be used to create very high protein sports recovery beverages that taste good.”

Many consumers know about the benefits of protein in general, according to the 2012 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council, Washington. According to the survey, 88% agree strongly or agree somewhat that protein helps build muscle. Other answers included foods and beverages that contain protein are a part of a balanced diet (80%), protein helps people feel full (69%) and high protein diets may help with weight loss (60%).

According to the survey, 84% agree strongly or agree somewhat that consuming higher amounts of protein is especially beneficial for athletes. Other demographics included teen-agers (74%), men (74%), women (70%), people older than 55 (68%), children under 12 (67%) and pregnant women (65%).