What Is Whey Protein Concentrate and How Is it Made?

What is Whey Protein Concentrate?


Whey protein powder or concentrate is a by-product of the cheese-making industry. Cow’s milk, naturally consists of two main types of protein, casein and whey, at respective ratios of 80% and 20%. During the cheese-making process, the cheese makers heat milk to kill unwanted bacteria and then add an acid (often lemon juice or vinegar) to it. This splits the milk into curds and liquid whey. When the curd is removed, the liquid that remains is called whey. Whey protein concentrate is that liquid. Whey concentrate is mostly protein with minimal fats, carbohydrates, and lactose. It’s special because it contains a lot of precious bioactive compounds, which give whey its immune-boosting and antioxidant benefits. Whey then undergoes a multi-step filtering and drying process to be turned into protein powder.

Generally, 100L of milk produces about 12 kg of cheese or about 3 kg of casein. The Benefits of Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein is excellent for muscle growth and repair. That’s why bodybuilders and athletes love it. But whey protein concentrate offers many other benefits:

  • ● Whey is a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids
  • ● It is easy to digest and the body can absorb it quickly
  • ● Whey is one of the few proteins that are bioavailable, which makes it an exceptionally valuable source of protein.
  • ● It increases muscle mass and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease with fewer side effects
  • ● Food and beverage manufacturers use whey protein concentrate (WPC) to:
    • ○ Increase protein levels
    • ○ Help reduce fat and calories
    • ○ Improve texture
    • ○ Replace milk, cream, butter, oil, eggs and fresh dairy
    • ○ Save money
    • ● Whey protein decreases cravings for sweets and snacks. It reduces blood sugar spikes by about 20% after a carb-rich meal. Stable blood sugar makes you far less likely to crave unhealthy food.
    • ● Eases stress and boosts immunity. Whey contains precious enzymes and cofactors that increase your body’s strongest anti-oxidant-glutathione, which protects your cells from stress. It also boosts your immune system.

Whey protein isolate (WPI) contains the highest amounts of protein which is why it is often used in sports nutrition in the form of whey protein supplements, protein shakes and beverages as well as protein bars.

Whey protein concentrate (WPC) also contains protein, but not at the high levels found in WPI. It is valued for its ability to replace ingredients like fresh dairy and eggs in soups, sauces, bakery and other applications, and maintain creaminess and flavour. How is Whey Protein Made? From cows grazing in the lush pastures to flavoured protein blend canisters delivered to your door, let’s dive deeper into each step of how whey protein powder is made. 1. Cow’s milk: Whey protein is an animal-based product obtained from the dairy industry. Fresh milk is collected from cows. In its raw state, cow milk contains about 5% lactose, 4% fat and 3.5% protein. 2. Transport: Cooled milk is then transferred in large refrigerated tanks to the nearest factory. 3. Pasteurization: Fresh cow milk contains bacteria that can be harmful to humans. It needs to be pasteurized before it is ready for consumption. To kill pathogens, the milk is briefly heated to a high temperature (~73°C) and then cooled rapidly. The important nutrients in milk are not affected by this heat, but only bacteria are removed during the process. After pasteurization, the milk obtained has 20 % whey and 80 % casein and is ready for a transformation. 4. Milk Separation: Enzymes such as Chymosin are added to the pasteurized milk to alter the casein micelle structure and make the milk curdle. The major part of the milk turns into curds. This solid part of milk is then used as the base product for manufacturing different types of cheeses. The remaining liquid part is whey. 5. Micro-filtration: Liquid whey is then sent to be filtered into high-protein liquid whey. During this stage, whey goes through further purification to remove fats, carbohydrates and water. In a protein manufacturing plant, liquid whey is filtered through multiple ceramic micro-filters. This process happens in a cold environment and is completely natural. This process removes most fat and lactose from the liquid whey. The resulting product is the base of whey protein concentrate. 6. Ultra-filtration (for WPI only): Whey concentrate is then further ultra-filtered to make whey protein isolate. Working by size exclusion, the ultra-filtration membrane lets the lactose-rich solution go but retains the larger whey complex. At this stage, virtually all fat and lactose are removed from the whey. 7. Spray Drying: The high-protein whey liquid is then put into a dryer. The dryer under the influence of hot and cold air removes the water quickly. A correct spray drying process also ensures that the whey doesn’t lose its nutritional value and the protein doesn’t get denatured when the residual moisture has evaporated. 8. Quality Control: The unflavoured whey protein powder is then tested for quality standards. The amount of protein is strictly measured and the final product contains 80 to 90% protein. 9. Blending: The plain whey protein powder is then transferred to the last process facility, where it gets blended with other ingredients like organic flavours sourced from fruits and superfoods, thaumatin which is a potent natural sweetener and non-GMO sunflower lecithin for better solubility in liquids. 10. Packaging: Finally, the flavoured whey protein powder is packaged and sealed. A sample of every batch is sent for testing to a lab, which uses an infrared machine to precisely measure the amounts of protein, fat, carbs, amino acids, etc. Is Whey Protein Concentrate a Natural Ingredient? Normally people assume that “whey protein concentrate,” is a modified protein. But, in most reputed Whey protein brands, it is simply physically modified, not chemically modified in any way. Much like other natural concentrated food products like frozen juices, tomato paste and granulated sugar, WPC is also all-natural and it can even be used to reduce or replace non-natural fillers, gums, starches and other ingredients. But that’s not necessarily true in the case of commodity whey protein products, so one has to be sure to get the facts when choosing ingredients for your formulations. Whey Protein Uses in Food Applications Whey protein is very versatile and is used in a wide variety of applications like Soups & Sauces, Spreads & Dips, Salad Dressing, Frozen Dinners, Bakery & Cheesecakes, Ice Cream & Frozen Novelty Desserts. How to Choose the Best Whey Protein Concentrate Watch out for additives in whey concentrate. When you’re shopping for whey, be sure you check the label for sugar, artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame-potassium, and any artificial flavours or colours. Organic, grass-fed whey is the best. Summing up, the best whey concentrate is:
  • ● Sugar-free
  • ● Artificial sweetener-free
  • ● Naturally flavoured
  • ● Grass-fed
  • ● Organic

Conclusion: Whey protein when consumed correctly is a great protein supplement with multiple health benefits

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