Sales of RTD beverages are exhibiting strong growth, with worldwide sales set to grow by 28% between 2016 and 2020. This trend reflects increased demand for convenience, primarily among busy urban-dwelling consumers. By 2050, it is forecast that 66% of people globally will live in cities compared with 54% now [World Urbanization Prospects, United Nations, 2014], a factor that will almost certainly drive demand for convenient RTD beverages in the coming years.
At the same time, protein continues to cement its popularity in the mainstream beverage market, presenting companies with an excellent opportunity to tap into both trends simultaneously with high-protein RTD products.
Key segments in RTD include sports nutrition drinks, iced tea and coffee and fruit smoothies—mainstream categories that are enjoying robust growth. The market for sports and energy drinks was worth more than $50 billion in 2014. Sales of RTD tea and coffee, meanwhile, were estimated to be worth around $69 billion in 2011, according to MarketsandMarkets, and is expected to reach $125 billion by 2017, representing an annual growth rate of 10.9% between 2012 and 2017.The smoothies market has grown by 166% since 2009.
In many countries the RTD market remains dominated by long shelf life drinks made using UHT processes. Previously, technical obstacles have made it difficult for manufacturers to add whey protein to such products without the risk of fouling. But now, with WheyHi from Arla Foods Ingredients, this risk is significantly reduced. This means that with WheyHi, companies can create long-life sports nutrition drinks, tea and coffee beverages, and smoothies in which 40% of the protein comes from whey—and yet still deliver a delicious flavor.
WheyHi is suitable for high temperature applications that use both direct and indirect UHT treatment, without compromising on processing capacity. In addition, the same compound can be used to create several different types of products, thereby simplifying inventory. WheyHi offers 80% more whey content than standard milk protein concentrates, boosting the nutritional value of the finished product. The company claims it also delivers a better taste profile compared with vegetable proteins and casein.
WheyHi has been launched as part of Arla Foods Ingredients’ latest marketing campaign, which is called “Whey Better Protein.” It is highlighting how whey protein solutions offer multiple application and nutrition benefits and can enable food and beverage companies to benefit from emerging trends by entering new categories that are growing quickly.
Inge Lise Povlsen, category manager for Beverage at Arla Foods Ingredients, said, “RTD beverages are the future of the soft drinks market. They tap into growing demand for convenience among busy urban consumers who want products they can drink on the go. These consumers—who are often millennials—are also looking for products that offer high quality nutrition, and whey protein is an ingredient that resonates with them. Now, with WheyHi, it’s possible to overcome previous technical challenges to bring the wonders of whey into the booming RTD category.”