Unlocking Next Generation Protein Enhancement 


Fonterra's breakthrough whey protein concentrate revolutionizes cultured products.

Research shows that 65% of consumers worldwide want to include more protein in their diets¹. Protein is known to have numerous benefits for overall health and well-being, including improving energy levels and supporting healthy aging. As a result, consumers are actively seeking protein-rich foods and drinks as a part of their regular diet.

High-protein yoghurts are an excellent option that can satisfy this demand for healthy snacks and meals while providing sustained energy.

Satisfying consumers high-protein needs*

The landscape of cultured products in the United States has evolved significantly over the years, but key food safety regulations are in place to ensure product quality and consumer satisfaction.

To label a product as “yoghurt,” a product must meet specific criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including using Grade A milk and Grade A dairy ingredients to ensure that consumers receive the high-quality products they expect.

  • 74% of consumers associate protein with general health and wellness benefits².
  • 56% of consumers indicate products high in, or a source of protein, are important when purchasing food and drink³.
  • 31% of yoghurt buyers consider high protein content one of the most important attributes in yoghurt products⁴.

A breakthrough in the US Market

In a fast-paced market, Fonterra leads the world in whey protein innovation and high protein concepts that deliver to consumer needs. The Fonterra Research and Development Centre (FRDC), Fonterra's centralized hub for innovation from ingredient development to applications; has made significant contributions to the development of differentiated functional whey technology over the last 20 years, with five patent families covering both ingredient manufacture and application IP. Their expertise in yoghurt product innovation has allowed them to respond to the growing demand for high-protein yoghurts that don't compromise on quality.

Lisa Rutherford, Principal Research Technologist at FRDC

“Our Pro-Optima™ Grade A fWPC is a first to market functional whey protein concentrate made with US milk to fuel cultured product innovation. Pro-Optima enables new product formats and adds more nutritional value to existing formats to meet the needs of increasingly health-conscious consumers,” said Lisa Rutherford, Principal Research Technologist at FRDC.

As one of the world’s leading dairy co-operatives, brands rely on us to supply both the functional ingredients and formulation expertise they need to develop compelling new products that address current and future consumer needs.

Dr. Pierre Venter, Director, FRDC

Innovation and Collaboration

Although yoghurt is a well-established market with few major innovations in recent years, the introduction of high-protein yoghurt continues to be strong. From July 2019 to July 2023, approximately 17% of all new dairy yoghurt and soft cheese desserts launched globally included a high-protein claim. Over four years, the share of high-protein yoghurt⁴ has grown by four percentage points. 'High/added-protein' is now the second most frequently^ featured claim on new yoghurt packaging, just behind 'low/no/reduced-fat' (28%), and in front of 'no additives/preservatives' (16%).

NZMP Pro-Optima™ WPC 567: A functional whey protein concentrate that enables unrivalled protein enhancement in cultured products, unlocking a range of textures.

Dr. Pierre Venter, Director of FRDC

The FRDC in Palmerston North, New Zealand, has been developing dairy protein ingredients and formulating cultured products for over half a century. Their extensive experience has helped numerous international brands explore and take advantage of the ever-evolving opportunities in the cultured dairy space.

Dr. Pierre Venter, Director of the FRDC, said, “As one of the world’s leading dairy co-operatives, brands rely on us to supply both the functional ingredients and formulation expertise they need to develop compelling new products that address current and future consumer needs.”

The role of FRDC

The FRDC has been instrumental in unlocking next generation whey protein functionality, enabling US customers to manufacture delicious protein fortified yoghurts. The FRDC has a longstanding relationship with the Columbia River Technologies (CRT) Join Venture, which initially produced standard whey protein ingredients for the US sports nutrition market and has now introduced NZMP Pro-OptimaTM WPC 567 (patent pending), a first to world functional whey protein. This product has Grade A status and allows customers to increase protein levels in various food and beverage products, such as yoghurts and sports and medical beverages, to levels that were not achievable before. The characteristics of NZMP Pro-Optima™ WPC 567 provide high heat stability, low viscosity, and excellent shelf-life stability at high protein levels.

“Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, this technology was successfully transferred to our USA Columbia River Technologies (CRT) partnership, enabling the creation of Pro-Optima™ WPC567, which offers unmatched functional performance,” Abbas Mehrabadi, Senior Research Engineer at the FRDC. 

 "Our collaboration with Columbia River Technologies (CRT) and their operation partners at Tillamook was key to ensuring the project's success. We worked together closely on technology development as well as process design and optimization for over two years.

This provided seamless implementation of our existing Intellectual Property (IP) and development of new IP that pushed the boundaries of microparticulated WPC functionality. Our R&D included evaluations of the ingredient performance in various applications, including high-protein yoghurts, ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs), and protein bars to confirm it met our expectations compared to our other differentiated whey protein concentrate production sites.” Continued Abbas Mehrabadi.

Abbas Mehrabadi, Senior Research Engineer at the FRDC

The FRDC has made significant advancements in functional whey technology, where scientists have achieved yoghurt protein levels higher than ever before while also unlocking Grade A certification. This has created opportunities for innovation and broken barriers for protein addition in cultured products in the US market. As a result, NZMP ingredients by Fonterra has established itself as a leader in the market for differentiated whey ingredients for viscosity management in protein fortification. The diverse team at FRDC aims to enable Fonterra to deliver new solutions to consumers around the world and improve the quality of consumer goods.
Find out more about NZMP Pro-OptimaWPC567 here.

Find out more about the FRDC here.

*Illustrative product concept.

1. FMCG Gurus – Consumer Perception on Protein Consumption – March 2022: Euromonitor International Health and Nutrition Survey.
2. FMCG Gurus – Consumer Perception on Protein Consumption – March 2022.
3. FMCG Gurus – What’s next for Clean Label in 2023 – Global Report – May 2023. 
4. Taken from Mintel's Global Consumer [FR1] [LB2]. Includes spoonable dairy yoghurt and soft cheese desserts; ^ among health- and nutrition-related claims. Source: Mintel GNPD, August 2022-July 2023.