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High quality dairy proteins fuel better-for-you product innovation
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Dairy fuels better-for-you product innovation amid rising demand

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Shifting consumer lifestyles and rising health awareness in Southeast Asia – home to some of the world’s most dynamic economies – is reshaping consumer eating behaviour and preferences.

People of all ages are seeking food and beverage products that are not only healthier and more natural, but also improve quality of life through high-quality nutrition. With a population exceeding 600 million, a growing middle class, and a combined GDP surpassing US $2.6 trillion, the region is witnessing a surge in consumer spending on wellness positioned products – a trend anticipated to accelerate in the years to come.1

As consumers seek protein-added, sodium-reduced and other healthful options to enhance wellbeing, dairy ingredients can provide the nutrition, flavour, and functionality that food and beverage companies need to meet this growing demand.

A balanced taste of health and wellness

Recent market research studies commissioned by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) in Southeast Asia reveal that consumers in the region are demanding more from their food and beverage choices. Among middle-to-upper income urban consumers in the region surveyed, one in three states they have only moderate to low satisfaction with their protein intake; of these, 80% are open to increase their protein intake. And, despite recent inflation concerns, 60% of those surveyed are willing to pay a premium for protein-added products versus regular items.

Better-for-you options that promise to deliver digestive wellness, sugar and salt reduction, and enriched protein are spurring the growth of new product launches featuring clean-label ingredients and high-quality protein.

Dairy's nutrient-rich package is recognised and recommended across the globe as an important part of well-rounded, healthy diets. Dairy proteins are easily digestible, high-quality complete proteins containing all essential and non-essential amino acids and high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). They are also clean label-friendly, produced using physical separation and generally do not require the use of processing aids.

US dairy proteins, encompassing whey and milk protein ingredients such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, milk protein concentrate and milk protein isolate, are made from wholesome and sustainably produced US milk.

“Consumers today are looking at ingredients of interest and health claims that deliver multiple benefits to overall health as well as a taste they enjoy,” says Anoo Pothen, Director of Consumer Insights at USDEC Singapore, emphasising the continuous quest for food and beverage options that fulfil both taste and nutritional needs.

US dairy proteins offer formulators the complete package of nutritionally high-quality and complete protein, together with multifaceted functionality, wide usage versatility, a neutral flavour profile and sustainable supply.

Rising consumer health awareness is also reflected in the acknowledgment of the need to future-proof their health. Another USDEC study found that 88% of consumers surveyed say they need to change their current lifestyle to better prepare for healthy ageing.

Sarcopenia, the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and function, is among the rising public health concerns for older adults and seniors worldwide. Consuming a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal can be a useful strategy to help maintain muscle mass and protect against the debilitating effects of sarcopenia. Dairy proteins have the advantage of being a high-quality protein source and are convenient to add to a variety of food and beverage products that can be consumed throughout the day.


“Health and wellness continue to be top of mind for consumers in Southeast Asia, with an added focus on overall wellbeing,” Pothen states. “Consumers understand their physical and mental health, encompassing stress and sleep quality, can be impacted by what they eat and drink.”

Crafting excellence: Dairy ingredients for nutrition and functionality

Beyond nutrition, dairy ingredients deliver usage versatility, functionality and sensory advantages that help formulators develop on-trend, protein-boosted innovations. With companies looking to seize a slice of Southeast Asia’s competitive food and beverage sector, it is imperative to formulate winning healthful products that appeal to local consumers and offer new unique tastes and texture adventures.

Thanks to their versatile functionality and neutral flavour profile, dairy ingredients have broad adaptability across many applications such as beverages, snacks, soups, sauces and desserts.

“Dairy ingredients and proteins offer manufacturers the ideal building blocks to innovate delicious and nutritious offerings, and the US Center for Dairy Excellence in Singapore serves as the ideal canvas for an exciting creative process for manufacturers across the region to innovate with sustainably sourced US dairy,” says Martin Teo, Technical Director for Food Applications at USDEC Singapore.

Teo emphasises that choosing the ideal dairy ingredient is critical for successful innovation to optimise both the sensory experience and nutritional benefits of a product.

“Apart from leveraging dairy as a source of complete high-quality protein, dairy ingredients also play an essential role in the sensory experience,” Teo shares. “Depending on the application, dairy ingredients can be used for a wide range of functional benefits such as flavour enhancement, browning, emulsification, gelling, water binding and many more.”


Figure 1: Martin Teo demonstrating the functional capabilities of various US dairy ingredients during a USDEC workshop at the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence in Singapore. Image Credit – USDEC Southeast Asia

US dairy: Beacon of innovation and collaboration

The US dairy community has emerged as a beacon of innovation and collaboration, actively engaging with local manufacturers and partners to deliver on the region’s evolving consumer demands. In 2023, US dairy export value to Southeast Asia reached US $1.15 billion, with the region ranking as the second largest US export destination globally for milk powder, whey and lactose.

Beyond the traditional dairy offerings of milk, butter, yogurt and cheese, US dairy ingredient suppliers offer a versatile portfolio of milk and whey ingredients in a wide range of protein levels to suit diverse food and beverage formulator needs, from powders, protein concentrates and isolates to permeate.

Fuelled by the commitment of US dairy farmers and the industry’s continuous investments in research and innovation, the US is a leading global supplier of world-class dairy products and ingredients. In fact, the US is the world’s largest single-country producer of cow’s milk with an expanding milk supply and a competitive, evolving product range.

Yet, the strength of US dairy extends beyond sheer supply volume. In an era where consumers are increasingly environmentally-conscious of their purchase decisions, the US is a leading dairy innovator identifying and adopting planet-friendly practices which further contribute to production efficiency.

A bold commitment to sustainability made by the US dairy community is underscored by collective ambitious goals to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality, optimise water use while maximising recycling, and improve water quality by 2050. Through substantial investments in research and advanced technologies covering feed production, on-farm energy efficiency, and renewable energy adoption, the US dairy industry is well-positioned to deliver sustainable nutrition from farm to table.

US dairy's commitment to Southeast Asia

As a testament to its commitment to the Southeast Asian region, USDEC opened the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence (U.S. CDE) in Singapore in October 2020. The U.S. CDE stands as a pivotal resource, fostering inspiration, training, and technical and marketing support for food and beverage formulators in Southeast Asia. Functioning as a fully equipped education hub and collaboration gateway, the U.S. CDE establishes a vital link between the US dairy community and Southeast Asia’s food and beverage industry.


Figure 2: U.S. CDE's demonstration kitchen - U.S. CDE is a hub for customers and partners in Southeast Asia to spark collaboration, ideation, and exploration of U.S. dairy as an innovation solution. Image Credit – USDEC Southeast Asia

The U.S. CDE continues to propel innovation forward with sustainably produced US dairy products and ingredients through initiatives such as educational workshops and seminars, product ideation and prototype development, application trials, and consumer research projects. Through robust regional involvement, the US dairy community remains committed to enhancing healthy eating, snacking and drinking experiences in Southeast Asia.

For more information visit U.S Dairy Export Council​ and follow the U.S. CDE on Instagram at @ThinkUSAdairy.


1.​ ASEAN. Investing in Association of Southeast Asian Nations.​ 2023.

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