COVID driven High Protein Drinking Yoghurt Trends

Discover trends influencing the global high protein drinking yoghurt market.

16 Sep 2021

4 min

#Global #Insights #Cultured and Beverages #COVID-19

High protein drinking yoghurts have had an exhilarating 18 months. The category is forecast to recover from an initial fall in out-of-home sales and return to growth1. This change is due to several factors. Firstly, their ability to offer multiple health benefits in one bottle stands out in the crowded wellness market. Secondly, they are well placed to benefit from the increasing popularity of protein around the world.

Growth is healthy

The market value of drinking yoghurts is set to grow globally, from 2020’s US$38bn to a forecast US$53bn by 20252. The Asia Pacific region, with strong consumer awareness of probiotics and a supportive regulatory environment, is the most significant market3. Drinking yoghurts are also taking market share from spoonable products by attracting attention from younger, on-the-go consumers and parents looking for easy ways to feed their children4. These strong associations with functionality have also boosted sales during COVID-19.

Health and wellness 

European woman runner resting on bridge, smiling and listening to head phones

The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the global trend towards health and wellness foods. Drinking yoghurts already enjoy a healthy reputation in most markets.  In the UK, they are seen as a daily supplement associated with digestive health, as against the Asia Pacific region where they are linked to immunity.

Digestive health 

While many markets link drinking yoghurts with digestive health, the association is mainly seen among consumers over 605. However, there is an opportunity to reach younger, on-the-go audiences. Awareness around digestion is growing among consumers under 40, with topics such as gut flora’s influence on bodily processes generating interest on social media.

Offering a product with multiple health benefits is an effective way to stand out in a crowded market.

High protein drinking yoghurts can combine muscle building and repair with digestive wellness to complement the weight loss benefits under 35s already seek. 

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S&AL - Smiling woman drinking yoghurt shot while on phone

Bundling immunity with digestive health and muscle maintenance can also generate increased interest in high protein drinking yoghurts. Except for Asia, immunity isn’t usually associated with drinking yoghurt. COVID-19 changed this as consumers began searching for functional foods that boost immunity. With their strong functional positioning, high protein drinking yoghurts have an opportunity to claim immunity benefits deriving from their dairy protein content.

The human body needs protein to build the antibodies, immune cells, antioxidants and hormones that influence immune responses. Dairy protein contains all nine essential amino acids which can only be obtained from foods. For example, a combination of whey and casein will provide the sulphur amino acids methionine and cysteine, which play crucial roles in making chemicals used by our immune system6.

Protein goes global

The average protein content for all yoghurts has been increasing in most markets, including China (13.7% since 2016), Japan (9.6%), and even the US (2%) – where the average protein content is already high7.

High-protein foods are gaining mainstream acceptance beyond Western markets the same way they once did in the US: through fitness. Keeping in shape is becoming more popular across developing markets as incomes rise — and having a protein-rich diet is following suit.

Crucially, the emphasis is on the quality of protein, not the quantity.

In China, for example, social media influencers are educating fitness consumers about the difference between different kinds of proteins.

Mintel: Yogurt and Yogurt Drinks - China November 2020

This includes advice about choosing the right protein powder and explaining how casein works to grow muscles8.

Brands are responding to this trend by emphasising dairy proteins’ essential amino acid content, launching products containing different types of proteins and talking about the benefits of each one. Recent drinking yoghurt launches in Europe have emphasised 50/50% blends, such as whey and casein, or even dairy and plant protein9.

When it comes to quality, dairy proteins have considerable advantages over plant-based proteins. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation’s Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) measures how well amino acids are absorbed and made available for use in the body. Dairy proteins score considerably higher on DIAAS than plant-based proteins10. An emphasis on the quality, absorbability, and bioavailability of dairy proteins is an excellent response to plant-based yoghurt’s aggressive positioning as a replacement for dairy products.

Manufacturing challenges

Manufacturing high protein drinking yoghurts can be challenging. Yoghurt viscosity tends to increase with protein levels. This makes drinking yoghurt less pourable and drinkable. It can also pose difficulties during manufacturing and require expensive equipment to process.

NZMP has extensive experience helping yoghurt manufacturers avoid difficulties in making high-protein drinking yoghurts. Our SureProtein™ Low Viscosity Protein range is an excellent solution to the challenge of keeping drinking yoghurts smooth and pourable. Find out more about our Low Viscosity Protein range on our Yoghurts and Cultured Products page.


  • [1] Mintel: Super Protein: Incl Impact of COVID-19 - US December 2020,
  • [2] Euromonitor Passport, 2021
  • [3] Mordor Intelligence, 2019,
  • [4] Mintel: Super Protein: Incl Impact of COVID-19 - US December 2020,
  • [5] New Nutrition Business: 8 Key Trends in Dairy Nutrition 2019
  • [6] RF Grimble, The Effects of Sulfur Amino Acid Intake on Immune Function in Humans,
  • [7] Mintel: Yogurt and Yogurt Drinks - China November 2020,
  • [8] Mintel: Yogurt and Yogurt Drinks - China November 2020,
  • [9] Mintel GNDP
  • [10] New Nutrition Business: 8 Key Trends in Dairy Nutrition 2019

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