Protein is a macronutrient that our bodies need in relatively large amounts. It is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. It also creates sustained energy and a feeling of fullness.

Protein will be one of the most sought-after nutrients in snack foods and meals. In particular, consumers will desire 'cleaner' forms of protein, such as nuts, seeds, legumes and yogurt. The explosion of high-protein Greek yogurt brands, such as Chobani, in the past two years is an example of this growing trend.

We spoke with Eric Borchardt at Glanbia about what comes next.

FI: When I think of Glanbia, I think protein. And when I think protein, I think sports nutrition. What’s the new game?

EB: Protein mainstreaming continues to grow. Not only in terms of nutritional but also functional.

FI: What do you mean by functional?

EB: In our Optisol line of dairy-based products, we improve Greek yogurt. Optisol 1020 provides a protein source but also the creamy mouthfeel of Greek yogurt.

FI: Greek yogurt is trending. It’s a high-protein product.

EB: Protein also imparts function in food or beverage systems. Glanbia started as a sports nutrition company but we’re moving more into a food and beverage system company, beyond bars to other types of foods.

There are a number of people who want to catch up to Chobani, including private label and large grocery chains. There’s a lot of interest in diving into this market and getting a slice of it. It’s expanding beyond basic Greek yogurt into different levels of proteins. A typical yogurt is maybe 4 or 5 grams of protein. Greek yogurt is 9 to 15 grams.

There’s a space for different types of Greek yogurt. How can we expand on that trend? We’re developing technologies to take advantage of these opportunities. The popularity of Greek yogurt is not rocket science – it’s a food with great portability and gives you a satisfying feeling of fullness. The fullness and fat content delivered by protein gives it a smooth, silky, indulgent experience compared to regular yogurt.

FI: Is there anything special about your protein offerings that are differentiating to Greek yogurt or vs other proteins?

EB: Our whey proteins are not like others. We have unique processes. They’re all different, you can’t just swap them out. Without giving away our secrets, we have unique qualities about our whey protein concentrates that offer incredible benefits, mouthfeel and an indulgent experience.