Protein drinks and shelf-stable dairy beverages are nabbing an exponentially growing share of the beverage market, driving Dairy Farmers of America’s Contract Manufacturing division to create increasingly innovative formulation and manufacturing solutions for its business partners.
From “mega” protein beverages to coffee energy drinks, consumers are looking at the beverage aisle in new ways, and that is challenging brand owners to get creative to capture their share of the burgeoning market. Consumer demand for protein drinks, in particular, continues to accelerate.
There are two consumer categories for protein drinks. The high protein drinks (30 grams or more of protein) are aimed toward consumers looking to increase muscle mass, including body builders. The other category, which is where consumer interest is growing strongest, is targeted at women and consumers who want to add incremental amounts (4-12 grams) of protein to their diets. 
Many beverage brands are experimenting with adding protein to existing product formulations to deliver on the protein that consumers demand. It’s a relatively simple way to capture new market share without the investment of a large-scale, ground-up product launch. However, brand owners may find themselves challenged by manufacturing minimums when rolling out these new product lines. But that challenge is, of course, at odds with brand owners who hesitate to produce large batches of a new flavor or new product and want to see how consumers will react before producing large quantities.
Pilot plants that can provide commercial-ready product in small quantities are hard to come by. Test market production is a critical element of new product development. We recognize this necessity and work to provide our partners with manufacturing solutions that answer that need. We work closely with customers on minimum batch runs that give them ample supply to get into the market. 
Another trend driving beverage category growth is the explosion of shelf-stable products. Consumers are getting familiar (and comfortable) with the notion of finding shelf-stable beverages, such as coffee drinks, protein shakes, flavored milks and other dairy-based beverages on the store shelf instead of in the traditional dairy case. That changes the market game and opens up a lot of opportunity for innovative brands to capture attention. 
As a vertically integrated dairy cooperative, DFA is one of the country’s most diversified manufacturers of dairy products, food components and ingredients, and is a leader in formulating and packaging shelf-stable dairy products. The Cooperative’s Contract Manufacturing division works closely with some of the nation’s most recognizable brands to develop, test and produce a broad range of products. Plants utilize state-of-the-art retort technology to make shelf-stable consumer goods with up to 18 months of shelf-life. Examples include coffee-based dairy beverages; nutritional, energy, weight loss and protein drinks; infant formulas and coconut water. Flexible manufacturing capabilities allow for producing shelf-stable products in packaging such as steel, aluminum and glass. For more information about DFA and its contract manufacturing capabilities, visit