What Is Whey Protein Concentrate and How Is it Made?

What Is Whey Concentrate

In the pursuit of health and weight loss, millions of Americans have made the high-protein diet a top trend, and the number of protein claims on food packaging has skyrocketed

Food manufacturers can meet the demand for more protein intake and diet-friendly products by including various forms of functional whey protein in their formulations in place of costly and fat-laden milk, cream, butter and eggs.

But what exactly is it and how is whey protein made?

What Is Whey Protein Concentrate?

When milk is curdled as part of the cheesemaking process, whey protein is separated from the remaining liquid. The protein from liquid whey can be isolated, leaving producers with one of the healthiest forms of protein available. Here are a few more whey protein facts:

  • When milk is curdled as part of the cheesemaking process, whey protein is separated from the remaining liquid
  • Whey is a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids
  • It is easily digestible and absorbs into the body quickly
  • Protein has been shown to increase muscle mass and reduce the risks of stroke and heart disease with few side effects
  • Food and beverage manufacturers use whey protein concentrate (WPC) to:
    • Increase protein levels
    • Help reduce fat and calories 
    • Improve texture
    • Replace milk, cream, butter, oil, eggs and fresh dairy
    • Save money
    • Make products shelf-stable

Whey Protein Concentrate Protein Content

Many are unaware of the difference between all-natural whey protein, plant proteins and other protein sources. When compared to plant-based proteins, whey protein is proven to be superior in regards to digestibility, sustainability, health benefits and nutritional value, as seen in the chart below.

Protein Comparison Chart

The amount of protein will vary based on the type of protein, how it’s formulated and its intended use. For example:

  • Whey protein isolate (WPI) contains the highest amounts of protein, which explains why it is often used in sports nutrition in the form of whey protein supplements, protein shakes and beverages and protein bars
  • Whey protein concentrate (WPC) also contains protein, but not at the high levels found in WPI. It is prized for its ability to replace ingredients like fresh dairy and eggs in soups, sauces, bakery and other applications, and maintain creaminess and flavor.

How Is Whey Protein Made?

Whey protein is dried and made into concentrate form for use in food, beverages and supplements. When comparing ingredient suppliers, it’s important to consider how they produce their products, as the facilities and results can vary widely. 

Unlike some commodity WPCs with questionable sourcing, Grande Custom Ingredients Group starts by sourcing all its ingredients from dedicated Midwest dairy farms in America’s Heartland as part of a strict chain of custody. The Grade A cow’s milk is sent to our cheese production facilities where the whey is separated from the remaining liquid, and a proprietary drying process is applied to convert that liquid into a nutrient-dense concentrate in convenient powder form.

RELATED: Click to See the Entire Whey Protein Concentrate Process [Infographic]

What Is Functional Whey Protein?

Grande Bravo® functional whey protein is set apart from commodity products like WPC34 because it incorporates easily into food systems without clumping or viscosity breakdown under high shear. There is also no gritty residue or chalky characteristics. The result is more desirable functionality, including a creamy mouthfeel, fuller texture and improved shelf-life stability

Is Whey Protein Concentrate a Natural Ingredient?

When people hear the words “whey protein concentrate,” it’s easy to assume something was done to modify the protein. In Grande Bravo’s case, however, it simply means that the protein has been physically modified, not chemically modified in any way. 

Much like other natural concentrated food products like frozen juices, tomato paste and granulated sugar, our WPC is also all-natural, and manufacturers can tout it as such—it can even be used to reduce or replace non-natural fillers, gums, starches and other ingredients. That’s not necessarily the case with commodity whey protein products, so be sure to get the facts when choosing ingredients for your formulations.

Whey Protein Uses in Food Applications

Another advantage of whey is its ability to be used in a wide variety of applications. Here are just a few real examples of how this innovative ingredient can be used. Click each one to learn more:

Benefits of Using Whey Protein Concentrate — Grande Bravo

Today’s consumers are willing to pay more for food with wholesome ingredients they recognize and trust, and all-natural whey protein ingredients make it easy for food manufacturers to clean up their labels and replace artificial ingredients. Grande Bravo also makes it easy to reduce fat and calories in your applications, as well as improve or maintain texture and mouthfeel thanks to its superior water-holding capabilities.

Using Grande Bravo can also help lower the cost of ingredients by providing a safe, consistent, low-cost alternative to cream, butter, fat, cream cheese and eggs which are susceptible to price volatility. It can also help decrease handling issues.

Other Types of Whey Protein Concentrate

At Grande Custom Ingredients, we produce several forms of whey protein for use in various food formulations: 

  • Grande Bravo® — A functional whey protein concentrate commonly used in creamy soups, sauces, dips, dressings and even baked goods
  • Grande WPCrisp® — Adds a protein-packed crunch to snacks, protein bars and cereals
  • Grande Ultra® — Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) adds high levels of protein to clear beverages and nutritional applications
  • Grande Gusto® — Reduced lactose whey replaces fresh or processed cheese in soups and cheese sauces
  • Grande PrimoTM — Brings the authentic flavor of regular or Greek yogurt to desserts, smoothies, dressings and coatings while boosting protein levels

Taste the Grande Difference

While it’s easy to talk about the proven benefits and qualities of Grande Bravo and other whey products, the best way to find out how it will work in your applications is by testing it for yourself! 

We’ll be happy to send you a sample and show you how to get started! Contact one of our food scientists to see why the right combination of people, products and expertise is the best way to naturally improve food.

Access the tip sheet below for even more reasons to use whey protein in your formulations!

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