Delivering the benefits of US Dairy to Southeast Asia November 2020
Glocalisation at New US Center for Dairy Excellence to suit local tastes
With recent events, the importance of eating well is undoubtedly on top of most consumers’ minds as a first line of defence for overall health and well-being, and protein has always been an important part of the conversation.
AFBR spoke to Ms. Vikki Nicholson-West, Executive Director, US Dairy Export Council Singapore Ltd, to explain their latest investment in the US Center for Dairy Excellence (US CDE) in Singapore to better meet the protein needs of Southeast Asia’s customers.
Nicholson-West said, “In a crowded marketplace, customers and consumers may be overwhelmed by information on different sources of proteins and their benefits. Given our long relationship with Southeast Asia since 1998, we wanted to ensure we weigh in on these important conversations in this region, and demonstrate how US dairy proteins stand out through a hands-on approach.”
And the Center is poised to do just that as the first-of-its-kind learning destination, ideation hub and collaboration space. It also features a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, ISO standard-based sensory evaluation lab, flexible meeting and training rooms and the latest video broadcasting capabilities.
With a slew of programs scheduled, the US CDE will provide research-based insights and knowledge about how US dairy proteins differ advantageously from other protein sources from the perspectives of nutrition, functionality, sensory attributes, usage versatility, sustainability and more.
Quality Dairy Proteins that make a difference
The benefits of health and wellness products made with dairy proteins may not be readily known to consumers in Southeast Asia – such as the fact that while protein is naturally found in a variety of animal and plant foods, there is a wide variance in protein quality.
Protein quality should be a key consideration when selecting high-protein containing ingredients, as protein plays an integral role in the body’s structure and function along with building and maintaining muscle. They can differ in the amount of essential amino acids they provide, as well as in their bioavailability - how well the body utilises the proteins. High-quality proteins are those that contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body in high concentrations.
“Dairy proteins definitely meet these requirements and stand out as a nutritionally complete and high quality source of proteins, because they contain all the essential and non-essential amino acids and high levels of branched chain amino acids. Moreover, whey proteins lead as a source of leucine, which is essential to kick start muscle protein synthesis to build, grow and repair body tissues,” said Nicholson-West.
Dairy Proteins come out tops
Apart from nutrition in dairy proteins, flavour, appearance and performance in product applications also play key roles in product enjoyment. Comparative research has demonstrated that dairy proteins perform strongly in these areas, including exhibiting pleasant sweet aromatic and milky attributes as compared to plant sources which exhibited beany, earthy, sulphurous and sour notes.
Also, dairy protein processing primarily uses physical separation, via filtration methods, and do not require the use of additional processing aids as they are naturally soluble in water. This means that there are fewer processing steps in contrast to some plant-based protein, fostering a clean label.
The multifunctionality of dairy protein ingredients is also key, offering whipping, emulsification, gelling, water binding capabilities while remaining soluble under a variety of conditions.
Every bite counts
Historically, protein guidelines tended to be based on minimum requirements to avoid nutritional deficiencies, rather than to optimise health outcomes.
However, experts these days recommend that older adults and seniors could benefit from higher intake of quality protein to help protect against sarcopenia, the age-related loss in muscle mass and function that can start as early as in their 30s or 40s.
In Singapore and Thailand, a USDEC 2019 study found that while 98% of consumers surveyed were aware of the need for healthy aging, less than half (49%) felt well prepared for their journey ahead.
Nicholson-West commented, “For food and beverage manufacturers in Southeast Asia that are looking to innovate healthy aging products, the quality of protein truly matters, and every bite counts. This is also where the US CDE can help customers succeed with these innovations. For instance, some products such as protein-rich puddings or congee may be a good fit for older adults who may find a softer diet easier on their palate.”
The ease and convenience of consuming high-protein foods – in many formats – snacks, soups, sauces, juices, puddings, congees, etc – offer a myriad of possibilities for starting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates whey and milk proteins, including in ethnic and locally-based food products.
“Adopting dietary patterns that incorporate quality US dairy proteins is a healthful lifestyle habit that consumers don’t need to wait for until later in life, they can start this habit today.”
While USDEC is developing a number of local-friendly food and beverage prototypes to which protein can be added, a key focus is on breakfast products as an opportunity to boost quality protein intake with US whey and milk proteins.
“We know that protein consumption tends to be lower at breakfast as breakfast foods are often carbohydrate heavy. As such, there are convenient ways to boost protein at breakfast such as adding whey protein to kaya and pancake or waffle batter, or adding milk protein to porridge. Another opportunity whether for breakfast or a snack is a savoury Asian protein granola that can be enjoyed as is or sprinkled on yoghurt, a savoury mix that’s perfect for consumers looking to capitalise on the adventurous flavour and texture trend. A worldly combination that suits local taste palate of Sriracha seasoning and soy sauce is complemented with crunch from US whey protein crisps, packing 6g of protein into each serving. Consumers also get the benefits of no added sugar and with the help of US whey permeate, less sodium too,” said Nicholson-West.
US CDE – USDEC’s latest experiential space in the heart of Southeast Asia
USDEC is bringing these concepts to life experientially through its programs offered at the US CDE, with innovation and glocalisation at its forefront.
“The new physical space provides hands-on learning and experiences, and we hope that the Center can become a valuable resource for customers to seize the benefits of US Dairy by growing and diversifying our programs in the region to meet customer and stakeholder needs.”
With unique and diverse Southeast Asian tastes to cater to, Nicholson-West sees this as a golden opportunity in terms of innovating for the region. “We know that each Southeast Asian country has their own unique flavour and texture preferences and favourite national foods and drinks. This is an exciting time to explore new ways to utilise US Dairy for its versatility, taste profile and wide array of flavours and textures.”
With social distancing measures in place, virtual programming from the US CDE kicks off with its inaugural online seminar in mid-November on “Healthy Active Aging with U.S. Dairy Proteins” featuring nutrition experts from Singapore and Japan.
“As a hub to serve customers better in this region, the Center is a perfect platform to exchange knowledge about US Dairy nutrition and innovation with F&B manufacturers here. We also plan to engage and collaborate with other regional partners too – such as culinary institutions, academia, health and wellness experts, and other relevant F&B organisations.”
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