Dairy Protein Key Ingredient In Nutrition Strategy For Healthy Active Aging In Southeast Asia

Friday, November 27th, 2020 | 1474 Views

Findings from a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) saw 98 percent of respondents in Thailand and Singapore aspire towards healthy aging, but only half feel they are prepared for the process. The study, which explored topics of protein, dairy, whey and perceptions around health and wellness, focused on these two markets known for their diverse and different tastes and cultures.

At a webinar held for food and beverage formulators and the nutrition community in Southeast Asia, nutrition and food innovation experts from Singapore and Japan discussed opportunities and proactive steps to narrow this large intention-action gap and reduce sarcopenia risks as Southeast Asia’s population ages. Sarcopenia is the age-related, progressive decline in muscle mass, strength and function that can impact adults as early as in their forties.


Raising Consumer Awareness of Protein Benefits

Addressing consumer knowledge gaps about the ideal sources of proteins nutritionally, along with the optimal quantity and timing to consume protein, is an important step to help consumers on a path to achieve their healthy aging goals. While 80 percent of respondents in USDEC’s study agreed that protein is a key nutrient to build muscles, remain active and reduce muscle loss during aging, many were confused about the body’s requirements for protein, how these needs change at different life stages, as well as the distinctive nutritional differences between plant, meat, and dairy proteins.

Another issue speakers raised during the webinar was the imbalanced protein intake over the course of the day. In Southeast Asia where cuisines are carbohydrate-heavy, especially for breakfast, protein intake is low at the start of the day and high at the evening meal, rather than optimally spread evenly throughout the day. Incorporating dairy protein, especially at breakfast, is a proactive and convenient step consumers can take today to fill the protein gap at breakfast. This also helps preserve muscle mass and function to in turn, remain active in senior years.


Catering for the Southeast Asian Palate

Together with nutrition, taste is central to successfully optimise protein intake in Southeast Asia. Careful product and recipe formulation are important to increase protein levels in products and dishes without affecting tastes, flavors and textures. Whey protein has a neutral flavor profile, making it a good fit to incorporate into everyday foods, whether Western or Asian style.

“The versatility and functionality of dairy proteins allow for the creation of products and menus that represent the region’s cuisines while providing higher levels of quality protein. Incorporating ingredients such as whey and milk proteins into various rice and noodle dishes such as Pad Thai, Laksa, fried rice, curries and desserts will help balance daily protein intake and in the case of the elderly, help them achieve their nutritional needs with familiar dishes,” said Pauline Chan, Director, Food and Nutrition Specialists Pte Ltd, Singapore.


Providing Increased Access and Options

Supplementing the mindset change is the need for increased access and options for individuals to consume protein-enriched foods. From the study, consumers in both Thailand and Singapore indicated that they are willing to pay a premium for healthy food, actively read nutritional information prior to purchase and are keen on trying new flavors and variants. 83 percent of all respondents also highlighted that they are likely to consume products with whey protein in the next 12 months.

However, present market conditions do not meet consumer preferences with 41 percent of respondents in Thailand indicating difficulties in finding protein enriched products where they shop. Furthermore, the percentage of products labelled “Protein Enriched” in 25 leading supermarkets in Bangkok fell below 10 percent for many product types available on the shelves. This represents a big opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers to fulfill rising consumer demand.

With Southeast Asia’s population already starting to age, a new approach is beneficial to invest in a healthier tomorrow through taking action today optimising how much, what kinds, and when to consume proteins. As a nutritionally high-quality and complete source of protein that is also versatile and multifunctional, U.S. dairy proteins are an ideal ingredient solution to meet the unique nutritional needs of aging societies.


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