Dr Marianthi Faka is the technical ambassador of Ingredients division in Volac International Ltd, Cambridge, UK holding the position of Dairy Specialist. She invested the last 15 years exploring milk and whey. In Volac, she has the opportunity to deepen her knowledge in whey proteins in particular and observe the changes in consumer acceptance. She loves the idea of making protein more accessible and everyday products healthier. She holds a Ph.D. in Food Biosciences with research focus on the heat stability of skim milk powder; MSc in Food Science and BSc in Microbiology with Medical Biosciences.
Whey protein ingredients for product performance & acceptability
Whey, a by-product of cheese manufacture rich in lactose and protein, was once considered a waste. Further advances in research and technology, along with increasing cheese production over the decades, transformed whey into a valuable product. The most common whey ingredients are whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey powder, whey permeate and lactose. Early adopters of the nutritional benefits of whey proteins were the bodybuilders who recognised the role of protein in building muscles. Spinning off the body building arena, athletes of various disciplines felt the need to enhance their diet with protein for muscle recovery. Their example was followed by the generally active public who wants to lead a healthy and energetic life or manage their weight in a sustainable manner. The increased demand for protein led to the development of more functional whey ingredients and consequently innovative products with improved sensory characteristics which can find greater consumer acceptability. While whey proteins became popular in the last decade, whey permeate and lactose were always essential components in confectionery, bakery and dairy industry. They are primarily used as bulking agents along with the benefit of natural sweetness and the unique properties of lactose induced by heating. The benefits of lactose and whey proteins in combination have been widely recognised in the infant nutrition for centuries, since the milk powders used for mother’s milk substitution were proven to be inadequate. Today, there is a growing selection of general and specialised infant formulas. Whey ingredients also play an important role in adult nutrition especially in clinical applications. Exploitation of the unique properties of whey and understanding of the consumers needs, complimented by advances in technology, continuously trigger the development of whey ingredients with valuable nutritional, functional and sensorial characteristics.