High-protein iced tea pegged as next big beverage trend by Arla Foods Ingredients


23 Oct 2020 — Functional, refreshing beverages like high-protein iced tea have significant market potential, according to Arla Foods Ingredients. The Denmark-based dairy ingredient supplier reports that the market for functional and fortified beverages in the US alone is projected to be worth US$819 million by 2024.

To meet this demand, both sports and mainstream brands are seeking to create new functional beverage products. 

“The high-protein trend is a global phenomenon. There are opportunities for high-protein tea worldwide,” Mathias Toft Vangsoe, sales development manager, Arla Foods Ingredients, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

Tea ticks many of the boxes for health and wellness, making it a viable candidate for high-protein formulation. 

“Demand for innovative functional beverages is huge and high-protein iced tea is the perfect way to tap into it. One reason tea and protein are perfect partners is that both offer well-recognized health benefits,” says Ulrik Bank Pedersen, general manager, North America, Arla Foods Ingredients.

Iced tea has long been popular as a healthy beverage due to its antioxidant properties, and many products now carry superfood claims. 

This is in addition to the burgeoning natural and vegan sports performance beverages on the market. 

Innova Market Insights reports that plant-based sports nutrition experienced an average annual growth of 53 percent globally between 2015 and 2019. Click to EnlargeClear whey protein isolate allows formulators to create refreshing high-protein beverages.

Sports beverages rising
Lines between sports nutrition and mainstream demographics are increasingly blurring. Even M&Ms has tapped into the space with a protein bar featuring its signature hard-coated chocolate.  

Innova Market Insights reports that soft drinks is the fastest-growing category of food and beverage launches tracked with a sports nutrition/recovery claim (Global, CAGR 2015-2019). This shows strong potential for high-protein beverages in the mainstream. 

“There’s obvious appeal for active consumers, but more mainstream audiences too.  On-the-go fortified and functional beverages are in high demand from a wide range of consumers. Both sports and mainstream brands are extending their product portfolios into healthy lifestyle products for a broad consumer base,” says Toft Vangsoe.

Whey protein isolate (WPI) is the optimal ingredient to formulate for high-protein iced tea, suggests Arla Foods Ingredients. 

WPI’s benefits for building and maintaining muscle mass are well known and it has been used in RTD beverages for many years, according to the company.

“Tea, which has been the drink of choice for millions of people around the world for centuries, has a powerful association with wellness. Similarly, protein’s benefits in areas such as weight loss and muscle growth are increasingly sought after by consumers,” Bank Pedersen adds.Click to EnlargeClean label is particularly important in the iced tea segment, according to Innova Market Insights. 

Whey protein as a clean ingredient
In the iced tea segment, Innova Market Insights reports that there is a strong preference for products that are natural and sugar-free. In addition, clean label claims are of particular importance. 

“By offering high-protein iced teas, manufacturers can put a new spin on an established consumer favorite without compromising on taste. Unlike some beverage ingredients, protein doesn’t set alarm bells ringing – in fact, it’s likely to increase appeal [for its natural and nutritional value],” adds Bank Pedersen. 

Other appealing claims that can appear on high-protein iced tea include: 

  • Zero taste of protein
  • Refreshing iced tea taste
  • Real tea extract
  • High-quality protein
  • Sugar-free
  • Fat-free

Maintaining taste
However, formulation with proteins presents obstacles to taste and texture. Creating a refreshing beverage is challenging as protein-fortified waters may leave a dry sensation in the mouth. 

Last year Arla Foods Ingredients launched its Lacprodan ISO.Water, a 100 percent whey protein isolate ingredient, designed specifically for the clear protein beverage space. 

The WPI ingredient is touted by the company for being the first on the market without the taste of protein.  

Arla Foods Ingredients boasts three different processing-stable WPI solutions that can be leveraged to formulate high-protein iced tea beverages:

  • Lacprodan ISO.Water can be used to make UHT-stable beverages with a clean and water-like taste.
  • Lacprodan ISO.Clear can be used to make clear beverages with a natural and refreshing taste profile.
  • Lacprodan ISO.WaterShake can be used in a clear and water-like ready-to-shake iced tea that delivers 20 g of protein and no sugar or fat.

Whether it’s in an RTD or a shake, WPI solutions can create convenient high-protein iced teas targeting the health-conscious consumers demographic, concludes Bank Pedersen. 

By Missy Green

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