One of the fastest-growing categories in the dietary supplement industry isn’t necessarily new, but it’s finally good enough for mainstream growth. That category? Clear protein shakes, specifically clear whey protein isolates.
Clear Whey Protein Isolates Poised for Major Growth in the 2020s
This subcategory of protein powders is unique in its ability to mix clearly in water, in contrast to the chocolate and vanilla flavors of old that are opaque, milky, and often chalky. With a thinner and cleaner-feeling texture, clear proteins enable brands and their formulators to develop protein powders that are fruitier and sweeter, while maintaining a complete amino acid profile.
We’ve had a chance to review several of these products, and while they’ve improved over the years, there are still some major problems:
- They’ve had an astringent feel on the tongue that leaves the user thirsty for more water.
- There’s traditionally been a foaming problem.
- The taste just wasn’t there… yet.
This year, that all changes, thanks to Arla Foods Ingredients:
ISO.WaterShake: The Next Generation of Clear Whey Protein Isolates
In August of 2023, we had Jakob Pedersen and Preston Losee of Arla Foods Ingredients on Episode #108 of the PricePlow Podcast. The gentlemen provided us with an incredible background on whey protein powder, and introduced us to several new technologies that the company’s been working on.
Today, we zero in one of those technologies: ISO.WaterShake, which is one of the company’s clear whey protein isolate ingredient offerings in their greater Lacrodan® family of milk protein products. ISO.WaterShake is a natural, high-quality protein source that offers all of the essential amino acids, but none of the foul aftertaste and texture seen in other clear whey proteins.
This opens up incredible new opportunities — proteins can be made to more closely resemble sports drinks and intra-workout amino acid supplements, providing greater benefits that customers actually look forward to drinking. They even made a powdered protein iced tea utilizing this ingredient!
In this article, we briefly recap the benefits of whey proteins, then get into some details on ISO.WaterShake. We’re incredibly excited about the next wave of clear proteins that are coming from Arla Foods Ingredients. To stay up-to-date, sign up for our news alerts below, and then let’s get into the details:
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Note: This article begins with a very brief recap of whey protein powders. You can skip to the ISO.WaterShake details if already familiar with whey protein isolates.
Protein Power: High-Protein Needs Continue into the 2020s
Nearly all of our readers at this point understand the importance of high-protein diets, so we won’t beat that drum too hard. Regardless of diet, increased protein is the first thing for dieters to key in on when seeking to improve body composition, strength, and general health.[1-5] Protein increases satiety,[6,7] improves hormonal profile, and has a greater thermic effect than the other macronutrients,[8,9] supporting dieters in countless ways.
Whey protein: the king of protein sources
However, consistent high-protein consumption is difficult without supplementation — especially in the amounts needed to support quality muscle gain.[9-13] That’s where protein powder comes in.
Of the options out there, nothing beats whey protein. Derived from cow’s milk, whey is separated from the milk, leaving a higher protein content that’s rich in all nine essential amino acids that the human body can’t synthesize itself. With an incredible digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS), whey is highly-bioavailable and fast-acting.
That’s great science, but even better are the results — several research trials have shown that whey protein supports improved body composition (muscle building and fat loss) as well as strength increases when combined with a nutrient-dense diet and consistent exercise program.[18-21]
But we know, there’s more than one kind of whey. It can be further filtered to a higher protein content:
Whey protein isolate vs. whey protein concentrate
Whey protein is broken down into classes, depending on how refined they are for their protein content. Whey protein concentrate (WPC) can range anywhere from 35-80% protein by weight, and are generally more biologically active.[22,23] However, they’re thicker, chalkier, have more lactose (milk sugars), and don’t lend to the translucence we’re looking for today in clear protein products.
Whey protein isolate, however, is more finely refined to get to 90% protein by weight, yielding virtually no fats or sugars / lactose.[22,23] This not only makes it better for those who are lactose-sensitive and cutting carbs and/or fats, but also leads to a thinner product — ideal for where we’re going in clear proteins!
Arla Foods Ingredients provides these… and more
This gets us mostly caught up on our “Whey Protein 101” basic introduction. Arla Foods Ingredients provides all of the proteins listed above — from grass-fed cows nonetheless — but they’re quick to note that they do not sell the lower-quality “WPC-34” that’s just 34% protein by weight.
The whey is also hormone-free, non-GMO and complies with the regulatory requirements for residues of antibiotics and pesticides. Only quality from this supplier.
Now it’s time to take things further, going clear with ISO.WaterShake:
Lacprodan® ISO.WaterShake – The Next Generation of Clear Proteins
The quick bullet points on Arla Foods Ingredients’ Clear Proteins are shown in the inset image:
- 100% whey protein
- Great tasting
- Refreshing new flavor options
- Clear in solution
- Thirst quenching
Made in Europe to the highest standards with no additives, these ingredients sport 92% protein (dry matter), 0.1% fat, and an incredible 0.2% lactose, while still supporting an excellent amino acid profile, halal/kosher certifications, and is non-GMO and made from grass-fed cows, as discussed above.
However, there’s got to be more than just that. Clearly, Arla Foods Ingredients’ R&D team is doing something more here that the competition is not doing.
To understand the secret, it’s best to hear it from the experts’ mouth, so let’s hear what Preston Losee explain Arla Foods Ingredients’ clear proteins from Episode #108 of the PricePlow Podcast at the 25:38 timestamp:
“So anything clear currently in the market is going to be one in the same right now — it’s acidified whey protein isolate, so that’s why you tend to see the same flavors. With an acidified WPI, that does give you a little bit of astringency because of the acidity, however where ours differs — and it kind of gets back to being vertically aligned all the way from the cows — you’re getting consistency on every batch.
So we go through and we make sure that the analyses and the spec grades and the purifications everything in line to make sure that our clear proteins perform at their best: they go clear in solution, the astringency is minimized, we even work with an anti-foam company to make sure that the foam’s knocked out to clean up that texture. So I would say it comes down to consistency in the protein, but also just that advanced R&D is making sure that our protein meets that certain quality spec that’s needed to perform in a clear solution.”
— Preston Losee, Arla Foods Ingredients
Much of the secret here is in perfecting the pH of the product. Jakob Pedersen continues, after showing a clear whey protein isolate that looks just like water:
“As Preston mentioned, it’s definitely the full control of the value chain all the way from the farm to the dairies which means that zero off notes, complete quality control… and it allows for that a very pure fine whey that has the full clarity and great taste.
We can do a low pH, neutral pH… the neutral pH tastes like water. I think we’re the only ones doing it today — it’s completely unique and it opens up a completely new flavor universe with fruits, herbs, endless opportunities that go way beyond the more milky flavor flavors that we all know today, and that’s clearly unique to Arla Foods Ingredients.”
— Jakob Pedersen, Arla Foods Ingredients
Zeroing on the neutral pH, Preston continues:
“You asked what the difference between the clears on the market and ours — Jacob touched on the next point with the neutral pH.
There is nothing like that, at Arla Foods Ingredients, we’re the only ones doing that type of clear protein both for beverage and for powders, and that’s the one that tastes like flavored water. There’s zero protein off notes there’s zero protein mouth feel or texture, no astringency… it tastes like you were to lightly flavor water and that’s all you’re drinking.
To be completely honest when I first tried it, I thought I was being hazed because I was the new guy and I was just drinking flavored water, but it was 20 grams of protein.”
— Preston Losee, Arla Foods Ingredients
As you can see, the secret is in the purification and quality process — controlled from start to finish — with some focus on getting the acidity profiles correct for the customer’s intended flavor systems. Done properly with Arla Foods Ingredients’ support, clear whey protein isolates enable a very high concentration of protein in solution, while the viscosity is also quite low.
The trick is getting it clear without it having too much acidic, astringent taste. We’ve tasted the difference, and Arla Foods Ingredients has definitely figured it out.
Beyond this, the products also have great heat stability (whey is also suitable for applications where heat may be involved).
An open door to new applications
With such neutral-tasting clear proteins, the sky’s the limit in terms of flavoring them. We can go for the standard fruity clear whey isolates, such as cherry or berry flavors — perfect for hot weather locales where you don’t want to be drinking chocolate sludge in 100+ degree heat.
But it can go well beyond that. Arla Foods Ingredients has introduced some great examples on their website:
- Clear Protein Waters
- High-Protein Iced Teas
These types of products have thinner textures in their real-world states, so the best way to protein-fortify them is with a thinner raw material – and that’s exactly what Arla Foods Ingredients provides in ISO.WaterShake.
Best suited to milder, sweeter flavors
With ISO.WaterShake, it’s important to note that the best flavor profiles are sweeter and milder, such as cucumber lime, watermelon, and the aforementioned iced tea flavor.
If a brand’s flavor system requires a lot of acid, such as a very sour flavor, it won’t work well with ISO.WaterShake — but it will work with their other clear powdered whey protein ingredient, Lacprodan® ClearShake.
This brings us to some of Arla Foods Ingredients other products, because as you can see, ISO.WaterShake isn’t their only offering:
Other Clear Products from Arla Foods Ingredients
Arla Foods Ingredients offers dozens of products, so it’s impossible to list them all. However, there are products made for both powdered and RTD applications. They span the following four major categories:
- Ready to Mix Protein Powders – Like ISO.WaterShake and ClearShake, these are the powders designed to be used in a powdered finished product.
Within this category, there are several other major proteins we’re excited to cover. These include traditional whey proteins and more advanced beta-lactoglobulin (BLG) powders that are higher in BCAA content, as discussed in Episode #108 of the PricePlow Podcast.
- Ready-to-Drink Protein Powders – These are the powders used by manufacturers that are designed for use in RTD applications.
- Ready-to-Eat – Protein powders meant specifically for protein bars and other functional foods.
Regardless of your application, Arla Foods Ingredients has a solution for you, and their development team is happy to support brands in the creation of their next product and flavor.
Conclusion: ISO.WaterShake is Clearly on Another Level
The growth of clear whey protein powders has been on the industry’s radar for quite some time, but into 2023, the majority of the category’s success has been in European markets. The products in North America haven’t yet perfected the taste, mouthfeel, or low-astringency requirements of the demanding American tongue.
We’re confident that Arla Foods Ingredients’ ISO.WaterShake is the ingredient to change the perception of this entire perception of this category of protein in America. Manufacturers are actively working to perfect the flavoring process, and we think the time has come for this corner of the market to explode with growth in the 2020s.
You can sign up for our news alerts on Arla Foods Ingredients and ISO.WaterShake below to stay tuned for when there’s additional coverage, flavor tastings, and research published: