High-protein dairy is booming, but how 'healthy' is it?

From cheese to yogurt, high-protein dairy products are highly sought-after among consumers – whether active consumers looking to build muscle, or health-conscious consumers looking for added nutritional value in everyday food staples.

At the Anuga 2023 trade show in Cologne, Germany, we saw many examples of high-protein dairy products. These products often had a low-fat profile, too – one way to manufacture a high-protein dairy product is to reduce the fat content in milk during processing, rather than through fortification by adding whey protein concentrate, for example. Besides spoonable yogurts and milk drinks, we saw high-protein cheese bars from Dutch and British dairy companies, but also fresh cheese (ricotta and mozzarella) and processed cheese slices as emerging categories on the high-protein arena. Read more on this here​.

High-protein yogurts, in particular, have regularly cropped up on British supermarket shelves in recent years, with Arla, Nestlé and recently Danone launching products in this category. But while these products are often marketed as ‘healthy’ due to being low in fat and sugar and high in protein, a glance at the ingredients list reveals additives such as artificial sweeteners, starches, gums and even plant oils. Can products touted as ‘healthy’ be truly healthy if they also come with these additional ingredients mixed in?

Danone UK & Ireland launched its high-protein dairy line, GetPRO, in the UK last September. Comprising a range of formats – from yogurts and puddings to chilled and ambient dairy beverages – the brand has since become an official partner for Team GB, Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Olympic team, while Danone is also a partner of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Asked why the company’s GetPRO yogurts – which contain additives including artificial sweeteners, starches and thickeners – are marketed as ‘healthy’ while they technically fall into the ultra-processed foods category according to the NOVA food classification system, Danone UK & Ireland’s dairy category director, Tom Hickton, told us: “In the UK, there is no agreed definition of ultra processed foods and they are not referred to in government dietary recommendations. What’s key is the nutritional quality of the product. The GetPRO range is all non-HFSS (high in sugar, salt or fat) and high-protein, with no added sugars, making it a healthy option that consumers can enjoy as part of a balanced diet and as a post-workout snack.