It’s important to recognize that not all “whey protein” is created equally. Each manufacturing stream from which whey is derived have uniquely different attributes. What does this mean? Let’s first start with the basics of whey and where it comes from and continue with the higher protein whey ingredients: whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.
Where Does the Whey Come From?
Whey is the remaining liquid from milk once it’s been curdled via enzymes or acids. Curdling milk can be done in a number of ways, but the biggest source of whey is the byproduct of hard cheese making via rennet. The liquid leftover is roughly 1% protein (chiefly α-lactalbumin, β-lactoglobulin, serum albumin, various immunoglobulins and protease peptones), which can be further processed into the proteins that are seen throughout the food industry: whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.
There are three main streams of whey that are available:
- Cheese manufacturing:
- Sweet Whey (cheddar, mozzarella, brick and Swiss)
- Acid Whey (cottage, ricotta, cream and quark cheese)
- Casein Production:
- Sweet Whey
- Acid Whey
- Greek Yogurt Production:
- Acid Whey (otherwise known as “Greek Whey”)
When analyzing the content of each of the whey streams available, there are some notable compositional difference. The below table is adapted from Center for Dairy Research:
* based solely on nitrogen content, which includes non-protein nitrogen
Looking further into developing foods with higher protein contents, typically sweet and acid whey are the main proteins sought after, especially for further production into ingredients like whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Greek Whey, as seen in the table, contains virtually no protein content, is the lowest pH and has the highest mineral content. It’s precisely these reasons that the food industry is still trying to determine to process this form of whey and where its best applications would be. Currently, Greek Whey is not commonly used for high protein whey ingredients or as a major food ingredient component.
Choosing the Right Whey: Sweet or Acid
When sourcing which whey protein concentrate (WPC) or isolate (WPI) is best (i.e. sweet vs. acid), it’s critical to look at the end application and a few important parameters:
- Flavor Profile
- Manufacturing Format
Whey Protein Isolate vs. Concentrate
Sweet WPC is by far the most heat stable of the whey proteins. Because of its ability to behave in slightly basic and neutral applications, WPC is mostly used in infant foods, sports nutrition products, clinical nutrition, ice cream products, confectionaries, bakery products, sausages, cheeses and most protein-fortified beverages. Most of the time the WPC provides protein content, emulsification and creamy dairy flavors.
On the other hand, sweet WPI is typically seen in three categories: clinical nutrition, sports nutrition and powdered beverages. WPI is mainly used for the protein content. Since WPI is at least 90% protein, developers get the most protein for their money spent, but often are restricted to powdered applications and typical flavors that behave well in the specified pH range. This is true unless the WPI has been altered in some way.
AMCO Proteins is proud to supply only the highest quality whey proteins derived from sweet dairy milk. This allows us to provide our customers the best product for their products, with minimal off flavors and developmental challenges. With over 60 years of product and application expertise, our team is primed to help overcome developmental challenges and fortify your products with protein.