Are perceptions of whey products as more than a milk powder substitute changing? According to a new report from market analysts Zenith International, yes, as processors increasingly looking for added value start turning towards whey products.
In 2002 consumption edged up to nearly 770,000 tonnes, claims the report that examined four main whey product sectors - sweet whey, demineralised whey, whey protein concentrates (WPC) and whey protein isolates (WPI).
France, Germany and the Netherlands dominate whey production in western Europe, with the main whey processors located in these countries.
But the Dutch appear to have the greatest liking, accounting for more than 30 per cent of European consumption in 2002 - albeit that the Dutch animal feed sector is the main customer. Next on the list, food processing industries in France and Germany were responsible for 25 per cent and 15 per cent of the market respectively.
French companies like Euroserum are important in the sweet category, while Dutch company Borculo Domo is active in the demineralised category. According to the report, in WPC and WPI, Milei, Arla Foods and BBA Lactalis are each increasing their focus on added value products.
"In West Europe, sweet whey powder remains the largest sector and was responsible for three quarters of total volume. It was followed by demineralised whey, an important ingredient in both chocolate confectionery and infant formulae," said John Meropoulos, senior market consultant at Zenith. Adding that the development of new functional foods and drinks, particularly adult and sports nutrition products, has led to increased usage of WPC and WPI.
"Traditionally, whey has been seen as a substitute for milk powder during periods of price fluctuations on the world market. However, the food industry's perception of whey is changing. Added value variants are now also beginning to become important functional ingredients," said Meropoulos.
Zenith appears certain that the future for whey will see continued development of more functional whey products, without losing its orientation towards commodity usage. "The real excitement and the added value in the category lies in developing new products that can meet the specific needs of food processors," concluded Meropoulos.
More information on the Zenith report is available here.