Is holistic hydration the “whey” to go?

Posted: 14 May 2024 | | No comments yet

Arla’s Sarah Meyer explores the rising demand for holistic health through functional beverages and the transformative power of protein in wellness solutions.

protein drink

By Sarah Meyer, Head of Sales Development, Health and Performance, at Arla Foods Ingredients

There’s no doubt about it: holistic health is big news. Since the pandemic, consumers have been taking more control of their wellbeing to nourish both body and mind – one in three now claim to be proactive in preventing health issues.1 This is driving demand for functional foods and drinks that go further than basic nutrition to address areas of key consumer concern, including immunity, sleep, mood, digestive function, gut health and energy levels.2

With two in three global consumers looking for simple and convenient ways to ensure their daily nutrient intake,3 holistic-hydration products offer an appealing, lifestyle-friendly way to improve wellbeing in the format of functional beverages. This is reflected in a growth rate of 10 percent (CAGR) in the number of soft drinks and sports nutrition launches featuring a hydration-related claim in the last three years alone.1 At Vitafoods Europe, Arla Foods Ingredients will be showcasing three new high-protein, clear-shake concepts featuring whey protein isolate that tap into this dynamic holistic-hydration trend.

Protein reigns supreme

While protein powders are the biggest category in the sports nutrition market, with a 46 percent share of value sales,4 what is really exciting for brands is the market’s expansion from traditional protein consumers. It’s no longer simply the preserve of athlete and bodybuilder “core users” and “performance nutrition” consumers who exercise strenuously and for whom protein intake is all about functionality.5 The new protein aficionados represent a broader mainstream, whose focus is on holistic wellbeing and for whom taste and convenience are king.5

Our research has identified these as “active nutrition” consumers – those who exercise moderately and frequently, and take a genuine interest in nutrition – and “lifestyle nutrition” consumers, who don’t prioritise exercise but whose concern for good nutrition is driving them towards healthy eating habits. Two in three of these active and lifestyle nutrition consumers worldwide are looking for functional beverages that provide a health benefit beyond nutrition, with over 20 percent enjoying powdered drinks at least once a week.5

Demonstrating protein’s transition into an ingredient with more holistic appeal, consumers now cite energy/stamina benefits as their top reason for consuming it (30 percent).6 Boosting immunity comes second (23 percent – tying with building muscle), closely followed by supporting brain health (22 percent) and healing the body (20 percent), while sports performance/recovery only ranks 15th as a desired benefit.6 This ties in with research on factors that consumers pay attention to when buying protein drinks, with taste (25 percent), cost (21 percent) and health benefits (18 percent) outweighing other considerations.7

Clear benefits with no compromise on taste

While today’s protein shakes deliver the nutritional benefits consumers seek, issues around dry mouthfeel and an astringent, protein off-taste can be challenging for some. Arla Foods Ingredients’ innovative whey protein isolate ingredient, Lacprodan® ISO.WaterShake, was created to overcome these problems. Specially designed for clear beverages, it enables a water-like shake that offers effective hydration plus nutritional benefits, but with zero dry mouthfeel and zero protein taste for an enhanced sensorial experience.

Whey protein isolate has long been the gold standard for protein quality, and Lacprodan® ISO.WaterShake is no exception. Available as a ready-to-mix powder, it’s a natural and complete source of the essential amino acids (EAAs) required for balanced nutrition, as well as being rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). This is key, given that savvy consumers are increasingly focused not just on getting more protein, but also on getting the right protein. Research shows that 36 percent of consumers with an interest in protein cite a complete protein source as the most important factor when choosing between products.5

Lacprodan® ISO.WaterShake’s clean, watery taste opens up a new world of flavours, and particularly compared to acidic clear solutions. For example, it’s ideal for infusing with the fruit flavours that dominate in functional beverage launches, featuring in 85 percent of new products between 2019 and 2023.8 Our new concepts feature on-trend botanical flavour combinations such as Kiwi and Mint, Lemongrass and Pear, and White Peach and Hibiscus, which our testers rated as the best-tasting samples we have produced so far (another reason to try them for yourself at our Vitafoods stand!).

It can also be easily combined with other functional ingredients. Our concepts include zinc and caffeine options for holistic functionality – perfect for consumers who want convenient, all-round nutrition that supports physical and cognitive wellbeing. Suitable for clean-label applications, it offers the possibility of a wide range of on-pack authorised claims, including high protein, no sugar/sugar-free,9 no fat/fat-free,9 no lactose/lactose-free,9 non-GMO/GMO-free10 and “protein contributes to the maintenance of muscle mass and normal bones”.11

Our Lacprodan® ISO.WaterShake concepts tap into three of Innova’s top ten food and beverage global trends for 2024. Its research shows that 42 percent of global consumers cite protein as the most important ingredient on the product pack, and it also predicts a stronger focus on additional functional ingredients in everyday water products for holistic hydration.1 We’ll drink to that.


  1. Innova Market Insights, Top 10 Trends 2024
  1.  FMCG Gurus, Top Ten Trends for 2024 Trend Digest
  2.  Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2020
  3.  Euromonitor International 2023
  4.  HealthFocus® International 2022
  5. Innova Market Insights, Trend Insider: Ingredients: Taking the Spotlight – Global 2024
  6. Innova Market Insights 2019
  7. Innova Market Insights 2024
  8.  According to EU Regulation (EC) 1924/2006 and 21 CFR Part 101
  9. According to EU Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 on GM food and feed and EU Regulation (EC) 1830/2003
  10. Commission Regulation (EU) 432/2012

About the author

Sarah Meyer is the Head of Sales Development, Health and Performance, at Arla Foods Ingredients



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