Unlike some food trends of the past, the all-natural food trend has serious staying power and shows no signs of slowing. According to the 2019 Food and Health Survey, clean eating was cited as the type of diet that consumers follow most, ranking significantly higher than low-carb, plant-based or other diet trends.
What’s more, most surveys indicate that the majority of consumers are willing to pay higher prices for natural, healthier foods.
For many, however, the definition of “natural” varies widely, with some consumers being satisfied if they can simply pronounce the ingredients listed on food labels. What makes a product “natural,” and do whey protein concentrate products from Grande Custom Ingredients Group fall in line?
FDA Guidelines for Natural Claims
The FDA has yet to implement any hard and fast rules for labeling a food as natural, other than ensuring there are no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives.
The guidelines fail to address the production, processing or manufacturing methods of natural products, however.
Including an “all natural” description and claims about environmental sustainability on food products influence consumer perceptions, according to the previously noted survey. Those same consumers are left to make their own assumptions about those claims, however. Unfortunately, this ambiguity has led to misperceptions about whether some ingredients are, in fact, “clean” and “natural” — including whey protein concentrate.
We hope to clear up some of the confusion by answering a few frequently asked questions about our whey protein products.
RELATED: Get to Know the Clean Label Consumer
1. How is Whey Protein Concentrate Made?
As it has been for more than 4,000 years, whey is created during the cheesemaking process and is a completely natural ingredient. The raw material in whey-based ingredients is milk. Before it even leaves the Midwest dairy farm where the milk is ethically sourced, it's tested to make sure it’s free of any antibiotics or impurities. Then it's taken directly to our cheese production facility where it goes through another round of tests and is properly pasteurized to ensure safety.
During the cheesemaking process, the curd is physically separated from the whey. The curd is made into white Italian cheese while the whey is drained, clarified and sent to the whey production area of the facility. After another round of testing and pasteurization, the water is removed and the product is filtered using a proprietary process to separate the protein from the other materials in whey, including lactose and minerals.
Once the product is concentrated, it is spray dried without the use of chemicals and packaged into bags. Grande’s chain of custody guarantees a safe, secure and consistent product each and every day.
Where food comes from is considered “highly important” to consumers, according to the study, and nearly as many say the same about knowing whether a manufacturer is committed to environmental sustainability.
2. Is Whey Protein Concentrate Really Natural?
Because whey protein is a concentrate, a segment of consumers may consider it a processed food. However, it is not chemically modified. Much like other natural processed concentrated food products (frozen juices, tomato paste, granulated sugar, etc.), whey protein concentrate also is truly all-natural, and manufacturers can tout it as such.
In fact, it serves well at replacing many non-natural fillers and starches, and it can improve the nutritional value of many applications. Manufacturers and consumers can be assured that Grande Bravo® Functional Whey Protein is made with fresh, natural ingredients using only a natural production process with zero chemicals, additives or preservatives.
It’s also important to note that no artificial colors are used in Grande products, such as annatto which is frequently added to cheese to give it a yellow or orange appearance. Many commodity whey protein powders end up having to include an additional step to bleach their products to remove colors that are added during the initial cheesemaking phase.
3. How is Whey Protein Concentrate Used?
Whey protein concentrate is a natural solution that can be used to replace more expensive and less shelf-stable ingredients such as milk, cream, butter and eggs. Some examples of its applications include:
- Soups and sauces
- Salad dressings
- Fillings, coatings and seasonings
- Baked goods
- Frozen desserts
- Reduced fat and low calorie foods
- And more
The taste, texture and mouthfeel of the original application are not compromised and, often, are actually improved upon from the original recipe. This is crucial to a product’s success because, while consumers are demanding more natural ingredients and willing to pay a premium, they’re not willing to sacrifice a savory and satisfying sensory experience. According to the food and health survey, taste is still the main driver of consumer purchases.
4. Is Whey Protein Concentrate Right For My Application?
If you’re looking to clean up your labels and promote the improved ingredient aspect of your products to better align with consumer demand without compromising the taste and texture they love, it’s time to look into the possibilities of substituting some of your costly or artificial ingredients with all-natural alternatives such as whey protein concentrate.
Brands continue to look for ways to improve nutrition labels without straying too far from the product consumers fell in love with in the first place. It’s not a matter of simply replacing artificial ingredients with natural substitutes. There are many formulation challenges that need to be considered. Our team of experienced food scientists will work with you to address these challenges and customize a formulation to meet your needs.
To learn more about how food manufacturers clean up their labels with our all-natural whey protein concentrate, view our helpful How Whey Protein Helps Food & Beverage Manufacturers Clean Up Their Labels ebook.