woman drinking shake after working out

Addressing Flavor Challenges in High Protein RTD Products

From sports nutrition beverages to meal replacement drinks, protein RTDs are a favorite with consumers for their nutrition and convenience. But they also have to taste great to ensure repeat purchases. Here’s a look at the flavor challenges in protein RTDs and the top strategies for overcoming them.

Flavor Challenges with RTD Protein Beverages

Taste can make or break a product. And while it’s hard enough to create a product with a winning flavor, product developers of nutrition products like RTD protein beverages face special challenges. High-protein nutrition products often include several ingredients that are known for their inherent off-flavors.

Manufacturers of protein RTDs often formulate with bold, indulgent flavors to overcome these challenges. Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and caramel are tried-and-true options, while newer sweet brown flavors for protein RTDs include cinnamon roll and butter pecan. Another popular approach is the use of fruit cream flavors like banana cream, strawberry cream, and peaches and cream.

However, even products that use rich, decadent flavors may still need a little help in covering off-notes, which can come from vitamins, minerals, high-intensity sweeteners, or plant-based proteins. Protein RTDs such as sports nutrition beverages, meal replacement drinks, protein juice smoothies, and fortified yogurt drinks are all examples of products that can benefit from flavor masking.

Vitamins and Minerals

Many protein RTDs are fortified with vitamins and minerals at levels that can range from 25 to 50% DV per serving. Some can carry bitter, metallic, or astringent off-notes, with B vitamins and iron especially troublesome. Microencapsulating these nutrients before blending them into a custom premix can be an effective way to mask their flavor. Using flavor masking products specific to vitamin and mineral off-flavors is another option.

bowl of natural sweetner

High-Intensity Sweeteners

To keep sugars and calories low, protein RTDs typically rely on the use of high-intensity sweeteners. Natural sweeteners stevia and monk fruit have become especially popular due to the growing interest in clean label products. However, natural high-intensity sweeteners come with their own off-notes—a bitter, licorice taste for stevia and a fruity taste for monk fruit. The right flavor masking products are often essential to successfully formulating with high-intensity sweeteners.

Plant-Based Proteins

While dairy remains the go-to protein source for protein RTDs, plant-based protein RTDs are on the rise. Pea and soy are the top plant-based choices for protein-conscious consumers (like performance athletes) due to their high-quality protein. However, both are known for imparting beany and green off-notes. Strategies to overcome this include selecting the most neutral-tasting pea or soy protein available, in addition to protein flavor masking with the appropriate masker. For some products, using a blend of plant-based and dairy proteins may be an option.

group high fiving

Collaborate with Glanbia for Winning Flavor

You want your RTD products to taste great and we have the solutions to make that happen. From our dairy and plant-based proteins that are functionally optimized to provide a better flavor experience, our expertise in flavors and flavor maskers like our MaskWell™ Masking Solutions, to our portfolio of microencapsulated nutrients, we have the ingredients and knowledge to handle your flavor challenges. Collaborate with us to create craveable, satisfying protein drinks that keep your consumers coming back!

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