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Increased demand from the sports nutrition and dietary supplements industries could see the US whey protein approach 500 million pounds (250 million kg) by 2015, according to NutraIngredients.com.

The report, cites Global Industry Analysts’ “Whey Proteins: A US & European Market Report” as saying the high-end technological developments and increased R&D spending are opening doors for increased use of whey protein concentrates and isolates on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States and Europe are the two biggest markets for whey protein.

The driving force behind this is growth in the health and wellness segment, where sports nutrition, dietary supplements, functional foods and clinical nutrition stand out.

Whey has long been viewed as a secondary product within the dairy industry, used simply as a means of feed for animals and not as an added-value ingredient. That, however, is changing, particularly with the impact of high milk costs on the industry.

Whey proteins from cow’s milk are used as emulsifiers in a broad range of food products including ice creams, beverages, salad dressing and sports supplements, and are classified as either concentrates (protein content between 25 and 80%) or isolates (more than 90% protein).

Whey protein concentrates at the lower end of the protein range (34%) are typically used in animal feed and dairy foods, while at the higher end (80%) the applications typically involve functional beverages and sports nutrition. On the other hand, whey protein isolates are used in nutrition bars, functional beverages, and nutrition supplements, the GIA report says.

While the demand is increasing, the GIA report notes that “rising prices of whey proteins are affecting the global market demand for whey proteins, as formulators of food products in the food processing, bakery and confectionary sectors are switching to low cost proteins and vegetable oils”.

Key suppliers are identified as Arla Foods Amba, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America, Davisco Foods, Erie Foods, Foremost Farms USA, Glanbia, Grande Custom Ingredients Group, Hilmar Cheese Company, Leprino Foods Company, and Royal FrieslandCampina.

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