In the ever-changing world of consumer preferences, protein-rich options are taking the spotlight, steering a nutrition-focused revolution throughout Southeast Asia. Dairy ingredients are playing a pivotal role in nourishing the population, inspiring inventive, nutritious, and locally inspired products like whey protein-infused instant coffees and dairy protein-boosted mooncakes, courtesy of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
Navigating a Healthier Reality
Fuelling this transformation is Southeast Asia’s burgeoning middle class, embracing the significance of a wholesome diet. This heightened awareness is propelling a surge in health-focused food and beverage offerings. Recent USDEC consumer research unveils that more than one-third of consumers in the region are not satisfied with their current protein intake, signalling ripe opportunities for food and beverage formulators to fill this untapped consumer need.
In response to this demand, Ms Dalilah Ghazalay, USDEC’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia, anticipates a growing need for innovative protein delivery methods in the region. “Consumers want nutrition without compromise—a delightful integration of taste and health that seamlessly fits into their fast-paced lifestyles,” noted Ms Ghazalay. As such, USDEC goes beyond providing information; it’s providing Southeast Asian food and beverage manufacturers with a roadmap to innovation.
Guiding the Innovation Journey
Aligning research and trends with US dairy opportunities, USDEC ensures its innovations prioritize nutrition, wellness, and convenience. Mr Martin Teo, Technical Director for Food Applications at USDEC, highlighted the versatility of U.S. dairy protein ingredients, such as whey protein concentrate (WPC) and isolate (WPI), and milk protein concentrate (MPC) and isolate (MPI). “Dairy proteins, thanks to their versatile functionality and neutral flavour profile, have broad adaptability across various applications like beverages, snacks, soups, sauces, and desserts,” said Mr Teo.
Collaborating with local companies at USDEC’s US Center for Dairy Excellence, the USDEC team develops and tailors US dairy protein prototype formulations to Southeast Asian preferences. One example, the Ginseng Protein Milky drink is a testament to their commitment, marrying traditional Asian health wisdom with modern nutrition. Showcasing how dairy proteins can complement plant-based ingredients to amplify synergistic benefits, the combination of milk protein concentrate, skimmed milk powder and ginseng in this beverage offers both added protein and antioxidants while balancing tradition and modernity.
Mr Teo pointed out, “While protein is found in a variety of animal and plant foods, there is a wide variation in nutritional quality. Dairy proteins, however, stand out as an easily digestible, high-quality source, containing both all essential and non-essential amino acids – and whey protein stands out for leucine content which is critical in initiating muscle protein synthesis.”
Mr Teo also shed light on the advantages of US permeate—another dairy ingredient offering cost-savings, flavour enhancement, and supporting sodium reduction while maintaining consumer-acceptable flavour. Exemplified in USDEC’s “Protein Matcha Sesame Butter Cookies”, US whey permeate and WPI reimagines family-favourites with trendy Asian ingredients like Japanese matcha, featuring reduced sugar and sodium content.
“These examples vividly demonstrate the seamless integration of US dairy proteins into beloved Asian classics. The potential for innovation knows no bounds,” Mr Teo shared.
Expanding the Reach of Protein Enthusiasts
To push the boundaries of protein-boosted innovations, Ms Ghazalay underscores the need for a mindset shift among manufacturers on how protein-boosted products are marketed. She highlighted that protein enthusiasts aren’t confined to athletes and gym-goers; they also include parents concerned about their children’s development, weight-conscious adults, and those embracing the golden years with a focus on healthy aging.
“The versatility of dairy ingredients allows consumers to effortlessly elevate their protein intake. Whether it’s adding whey protein to meals or beverages, the emphasis is on making nutrition a seamless part of daily life for consumers across all life stages. This opens avenues for food and beverage manufacturers for endless possibilities,” she explained.
Seizing the Future of Dairy Innovation
Looking ahead, Mr Teo shared that the innovation journey manufacturers need to embark on is not just about meeting nutritional needs; it’s also about elevating experiences, balancing tradition with modernity, and embracing the diverse palate of Southeast Asia. “From street vendors to gourmet restaurants, elaborate home-cooked meals to quick and instant ones on the go, there’s an overwhelming array of delectable choices in Southeast Asia. Innovation is necessary to set yourself apart and essentially, taste after all is king – it’s non-negotiable if you want to achieve success in this region,” he added.
Echoing this sentiment, Ms Ghazalay expressed enthusiasm on how US dairy is the right fit for attaining success in Southeast Asia, citing the industry’s commitment to help nourish the world and fulfil their protein intake deliciously and responsibly. “US dairy industry pioneers environmental improvements, delivers top-quality products, and has ambitious aims for greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050. The industry’s long legacy to continuously improve their environmental impact and produce high quality dairy ingredients makes US dairy proteins a promising solution for nutrition, innovation, and environmental consciousness.”
Discover more on US dairy and how you can innovate with us at https://www.usdairyexcellence.org/
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U.S Dairy Export Council Southeast Asia