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With plant-based protein or vegan protein on the rise due to lactose intolerance and dietary preferences, we look at how protein alternatives are becoming increasingly popular. A recent update from the United States Department of agriculture confirms that dairy milk consumption is declining year on year – falling 25% between 1996 and 2017. Due to the popularity of plant-based protein to milk, with Starbucks recently introducing almond milk to the UK menu and more and more companies introducing vegan-friendly protein powders more people are opting for milk free alternatives than ever before. We investigate what is causing such a decline in dairy products within consumer diets and how the health and wellness industry is adapting to the change.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest sugars within milk called lactose. Lactose is the main carbohydrate in milk products and comprises a disaccharide consisting of glucose and galactose. This is the result of a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is located within the small intestine. Lactase hydrolyses lactose into its separate components; glucose and galactose so it can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream.

People with lactose intolerance can’t produce enough lactase, so the lactose stays within the digestive system and gets fermented into bacteria. This leads to the production of various gases that cause the symptoms of the problem. The symptoms of lactose intolerance include flatulence, bloating, cramps and discomfort. Lactose intolerance can be temporary, if the consumer has an infection in the digestive system, however, more and more children are born with it and maintain it for life.

History of Lactose Intolerance

Researchers estimate that the intolerance was first discovered as recently as 7500 years ago in Hungary. This was due to an increasing rise in farming and milk being easily available. The milk intolerance then began to spread in the Middle East, West Africa and Southern Asia as different genetic mutations were created. Now, more than 70% of the world’s population has some form of lactose intolerance, with the highest cases found in China, as 90% of the country is allergic to lactose, which explains the low consumption. Countries such as Sweden only have 4% intolerance, while the USA has an average of 74%. 87% of India is also lactose intolerant, as well as 47% of the UK having a level of the allergy which is astonishing. Considering how “everyday” milk is within the UK, some consumers may feel slight discomfort and put it down to stress, while others are highly sensitive.

The increase in awareness of lactose intolerance, especially in babies has created a huge market space for milk alternatives such as plant-based protein that those with the intolerance will consume and others just for the taste or nutritional content. This opens a new awareness for protein powders being mixable with water rather than milk, or still tasting great with a milk alternative.

Plant Based Protein

Dietary Preferences

Millennials are driving a worldwide shift away from consuming animal products, pushing more towards plant-based protein demand. In the USA, there has been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans within the last three years, as opposed to just 1% of Americans being vegan in 2014. In the UK, veganism has increased by 350% compared to 2007, according to the Vegan Society. Vegan athletes are also making headlines as they have the same amazing results when competing as those using animal products to boost performance. Kendrick Farris, a male weightlifter that competed in the Rio Olympics using plant-based protein while training. Tennis star Venus Williams is also a vegan influencer that has been spotted using vegan proteins while training. With veganism slowly overtaking the trend for organic foods for celebrities, fans are following their favourite stars in their vegan lifestyle. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Ellen DeGeneres and Brad Pitt are all vegan influencers with very open lifestyles and millennials are following suit. As more celebrities endorse a plant-based lifestyle, it is clear that athletes especially can have an equal or even better performance level with a plant-based protein.

The global plant-based milk market is expected to reach $16 billion in 2018, dramatically increasing from just $7 billion in 2010, with protein alternatives following the vegan protein trend as an alternative to whey protein.

Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk, as the leftover liquid when milk is turned into cheese is produced into a protein supplement. Whey protein assists muscle recovery and growth, with the advantage of being cheap and easily accessible and it works. However, more and more people are opting for a plant-based lifestyle, meaning whey protein no longer appeals to them.

Plant Based Protein

Plant based protein powders

The most common plant protein is soy protein, as it closely resembles the amino acid profile of milk-based proteins. Soy protein is considered a complete protein as it provides all the essential amino acids and can contain up to 90% protein. Derived from soybeans, as well as protein, you gain a large quantity of fibre, as well as being naturally rich in vitamins and minerals.

Other plant-based protein powders include pea, rice, hemp and quinoa – all of which have their own unique flavour, texture, amino acid profile and price tag. While providing a vegan-friendly option, most plant-based protein from a single source are typically incomplete proteins. However, some of these plants can be blended together to ensure that the finished product is classed as ‘complete’.

To maintain a complete protein profile, blending two or more types of plant proteins together can create a fantastic vegan-friendly product that has the same, if not more protein content as whey protein without any negative symptoms associated with whey protein such as bloating and gas.

Wholesale Protein Delivery Methods

At Supplement Factory, we can manufacture and source a wide range of protein-based food supplements and functional foods.