What’s shaping the world of dairy nutrition?

Consumers are increasingly aware of their well-being. From rising global stress levels [1] to four in ten aiming to consume more protein [4], consumers are taking action and they’re looking to what they eat and drink to support their health goals. Dairy has long been a part of a healthy diet due to its versatility and robust nutritional profile. With everything from calcium and protein to prebiotics [2] and more, dairy provides a wide range of nutritional benefits and offers brands a playground of application opportunities. In this article, Vicky Davies, global marketing director, Performance, Active and Medical Nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients, explores the current trends shaping the world of dairy nutrition, and their driving forces.

The reigning champion in sports nutrition

Dairy proteins are the gold standard for active nutrition products andthis doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. However, consumerexpectations are shifting. There used to be a clear distinction betweenperformance athletes and the active, everyday consumer.But with higher levels of health awareness, lines between these twodistinctive categories are beginning to blur. Now, 60% of consumerssay they exercise three times a week or more.[3] As a result, bothprofessional athletes and everyday health-conscious consumersare seeking increasingly accessible nutritional formats, such asbars, gels, powder sticks and drinks.

Dairy protein continues to remain a popular ingredient in the worldof sports nutrition, with the global whey protein market estimatedto be worth US$10.26 billion in 2021.[4] This is largely due to whey’sversatility, accessibility, and palatability. Its health-boosting propertiesare well-researched and understood, meaning it continues to be apopular choice for manufacturers who want to advertise provenbenefits. This is particularly important when considering the blurringof the lines between professional athletes and active consumers.This growing demographic stays up to date with the latest scientificstudies and wants to make sure they’re consuming the mosteffective products.

Beyond protein

Another evolving trend within sports nutrition is the demand forproducts that offer multiple benefits. Popular applications ofteninclude claims that the product boosts immunity and reduces stress.This ‘protein plus’ trend is also increasing the popularity of sportsnutrition products that can support a healthy gut, a key concernfor many athletes.It’s thought that athletes are particularly affected by poor gut healthwith one study suggesting that half of athletes suffer from gastrointestinalproblems,[5] while another suggests that as many as86% of athletes suffer from these problems when associated withtraining and competition.[6] Gastrointestinal issues can negativelyimpact athletic performance and muscle recovery, as an unbalancedgut can adversely influence nutrient absorption.[7,8,9,10]This is another area where high quality dairy ingredients can helpformulators meet consumer demand. Prebiotics are a dietary fibre,which can be found in dairy and other food sources, that feed goodbacteria in the gut. This contributes to the production of nutrients,like short-chain fatty acids, that can support a healthier digestivesystem. Prebiotics such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) have beenshown to stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria within the gutmicrobiota. Regular consumption of GOS has been shown to contributeto normal digestive function and improved gut comfort. [11]This can have a significant impact on the recovery and performanceof active consumers and athletes suffering from digestive health issues.With people exercising more, and athletes being particularlysusceptible to gut-health issues, there will likely be growing interestin dairy nutrition products with both protein’s muscle buildingproperties and prebiotics’ gut supporting benefits.

Dairy for digestive health

The demand for digestive health products has increased significantlyover the past few years.[12] This has been partly driven bythe COVID-19 pandemic,[2], which shifted many consumer mindsetsto focus more on holistic well-being over more extreme orrestrictive diets. Additionally, people are becoming more aware of the essential role the gut plays in overall well-being. As many as two in three global consumers recognise the importance of digestive health for general well-being.[13] As a result, the market for digestive health products is estimated to reach an impressive $71.95 billion by 2027.[14] This increased demand is shaping the world of dairy nutrition which is being further bolstered by studies that are beginning to shed light
on the complex link between gut health and brain health, knowna s the gut-brain axis. Growing research on this topic shows that prebiotics, such as FrieslandCampina Ingredients’ Biotis™ GOS, can influence sleep, mood and more.[8,13,15] This is because GOS have been proven to stimulate both Bifidobacteria in the gut,[5] which correlates with stress reduction,[16,17] and reduced anxiety symptoms.[8,18] With research and consumer awareness increasing as well as the continued destigmatising of mental health leading to once taboo topics like depression and anxiety now being more openly discussed, there is a perfect opportunity for brands to tap into the growing demand for mental well-being products.

What’s next for dairy nutrition?

Another trend to watch is dairy proteins for healthy ageing. The UN has labelled the 2020s as the decade of healthy ageing and globally there are currently more than 1 billion people aged 60 years or older. We are living longer and people want to have as much freedom in their golden years as possible. According to 55% of 55s and older, healthy ageing means staying fit and independent.[19] There are some simple steps consumers can take to stay healthier for longer, and one of those is increasing protein intake. Older adults require more protein than their younger counterparts to maintain their muscle mass, but often struggle to meet their daily requirement as they are often also balancing a decreased appetite. Therefore, there is a growing need for healthy ageing products that pack a high protein content into a small, tasty and easy-to-consume package.

Adding healthy ageing to the background of consumers prioritising their health, fitness, mental well-being and gut health means brands have an exciting opportunity to use a range of dairy ingredients across innovative new products – targeted at multiple growing demographics.

Biotis™ GOS

Biotis™ GOS, from FrieslandCampina Ingredients, is a dairy-derived prebiotic which has been shown to influence the balance of the gut microbiota producing beneficial effects on gut health and mental well-being. It is a versatile, stable, long shelf-life ingredient that’s easy to incorporate into all kinds of formats. It has a clean sensory profile and is available as a transparent syrup and a white powder. Its flavour is neutral to slightly sweet, allowing many application possibilities. For more information, visit: www.biotis.com/biotis-gos-ingredient/

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