Many processors are developing yogurts with higher levels of protein.

Strawberry milk colored with strawberry juice concentrate, rather than beet juice — even though both are considered colors from natural sources — seems simpler, more natural. Similarly, dairy foods emulsified, flavored, fortified and stabilized with dairy-derived ingredients make sense, especially in a marketplace where many consumers appear to have an affinity for products with a clean label. In short, formulating dairy with dairy increasingly is becoming more common.

In today’s protein-centric marketplace, whey is likely the first dairy-derived ingredient that comes to mind. It is considered a superior-quality, high-performing protein and for sports nutrition, has become the gold standard. But when it comes to other functionalities, formulators have an array of dairy-derived ingredients to choose from.

For example, permeate, also called dairy product solids, is a relatively new ingredient that is making inroads in product development. The high-lactose dairy ingredient is produced through the removal of protein and other solids from milk or whey via physical separation techniques.

Dairy products account for one-fourth of all new product launches containing permeate, according to data from Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands. Applications include cheese sauces, dips, process cheese and ice cream.

“U.S. suppliers have invested research and development efforts revealing the sensory, functional and nutritional benefits of whey and milk permeates as cost-saving, flavor-enhancing ingredients,” said Vikki Nicholson, senior vice-president of global marketing for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Arlington, Va.

Idaho Milk Products, Jerome, Idaho, focuses on taking farm-fresh milk daily and using separation technology to create three ingredients: cream, milk permeate powder (M.P.P.) and milk protein concentrate (M.P.C.). Within the processes of producing M.P.C. and M.P.P., there are opportunities to produce custom specialty products to meet specific customer needs.

For example, to compete in the higher-protein cultured dairy products category, many companies are producing Greek-style yogurts using the addition of extra protein. This yogurt may be sold as is, or used as a base for dips and smoothies.

“Milk protein ingredients are simply added to the milk base to reach the desired protein level,” said Jessica Henry, marketing manager at Idaho Milk Products. “The ratio of casein to whey proteins in a yogurt formulation depends on the desired protein content and firmness of the finished product.”

For example, a milk protein blend containing 50% to 70% casein and 30% to 40% whey proteins yields a desirable firm yogurt gel with smooth texture.

“Milk proteins assist with water binding, and thus increase viscosity and produce a strong yogurt gel,” she said. “Unlike some stabilizers, milk proteins have a clean dairy flavor that does not mute natural yogurt flavors or mask the intensity of added flavors. When part of the formulation, manufacturers can often reduce costs by decreasing the usage level of added flavors.”

Glanbia Nutritionals Inc., Fitchburg, Wis., markets a grade A Greek yogurt powder that allows for Greek yogurt flavor — and a “made with Greek yogurt” claim — in all types of products, including smoothies and dips. Made from cultured skim milk and M.P.C., the ingredient helps build viscosity while delivering the sour taste one expects with Greek yogurt.