Protein can be associated with a variety of mouthfeel attributes. Creamy on the good side; chalky on the unpleasant end of the range. In beverages it has been used in just about everything from pre-workout sludges to teas, coffees and savory offerings. It has even been tried in ‘waters’ of various sorts before, but issues of mouthfeel and opacity remained.
This has restricted protein’s appearance to beverages that have a primary nutritional support positioning. In other words, you are drinking this beverage as part of your food intake, and less because you’re just thirsty. Now with its new offering, dubbed PRObev, a clear, heat stable whey protein isolate, dairy-based proteins can take their place in bolstering the nutritional punch of the hydration end of the aisle, said Michael Hiron, vice president of sales for MSG.
Hiron said as far as can be determined, the product the company was sampling at its booth at the recent Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA is a first.
Dubbed Fizzique, the product, which was developed in partnership with protein pioneer and former Olympian David Jenkins, is the first clear, carbonated beverage to feature a solid dosage of protein.
“They have identified a market they wanted to go after,” Hiron told NutraIngredients-USA. “People have put whey proteins into a lot of things, but nobody was doing a carbonated beverage.”
“It’s filling a gap in the market where there was really nothing there,” he said.
Mouthfeel, stability challenges
The beverage comes in two flavors: Strawberry Watermelon and Tropical Limon, and features 80 calories and 20 grams of protein per serving. It is sweetened with sucralose.
Getting the mouthfeel and taste right for the new PRObev product were big challenges, Hiron said. First off, proteins in their native state are big molecules, and they like to stick together. Viscosity, which can be a formulator’s friend in certain food and beverage matrices, is an enemy when it comes to a ‘refreshment’ positioning. Consumers have certain expectations for products they are taking to quench thirst. A ‘water’ should go down like, well, water.
“Protein has a tendency to coat the mouth. They wanted a drink that was absolutely clear that still had that clean mouthfeel,” he said.
And then came the challenges introduced by carbonation, which changes the pH of the beverage. There are common ways of keeping protein stable in these situations, but they often come at the expense of taste, Hiron said.
“There are acidulants you can use, but then you often end up with a very astringent mouthfeel,” he said.
Hiron added that the products are aimed at a female demographic. Consumer research has shown that milk-like beverages don’t do as well with women, he said. And as many female consumers say they are concerned about their weight, the beverages are trading on science linking protein intake with satiety.