Sept. 26, 2008

New Cornell drink with protein punch debuts at New York Farm Day in D.C.

It hasn't got a name yet, but it's a drink with an extra protein punch. Cornell food scientist David Barbano has developed technology to isolate protein and calcium from skim milk. From this can be produced juices or flavored-water drinks that are high in protein and calcium and low in carbohydrates and free of lactose.

One such drink -- a mango-peach flavored beverage with 5 grams of protein and 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium -- was featured Sept. 23 at New York Farm Day, hosted by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, D.C., where visitors offered such names for the product as Heavenly Nectar, Moo Juice and Mango Boost.

The event, attended by members of the New York congressional delegation and Committees on Agriculture and other legislative staff, informs national policymakers that New York is a major agricultural state by featuring the state's wines, farm products, seafood and restaurants.

"Farm Day is a unique and important opportunity for us to showcase the best of what New York's farmers and producers have to offer," said Clinton.

Barbano said of his new invention: "Using a new filtration technology that we developed, we can fortify beverages with minimal changes in the flavor or appearance of the beverage. And we can formulate a drink to contain different protein and calcium levels."

Unlike other high-protein drinks on the market, which use whey protein from cheese making, the new protein-calcium powder is isolated directly from skim milk, "so the flavor is cleaner than whey protein -- it's not cheesy," Barbano said. "Therefore, we hope that we can develop a much higher-protein drink that has a neutral flavor, so all that you will taste is the fruit flavor."

The popularity of the Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets has focused the attention of consumers on carbohydrate intake in efforts to fight obesity, a major health problem for Americans. The new ingredient can create drinks that are not only low in carbohydrates but also "of high nutritional value while delivering a great-tasting, refreshing nutritional beverage," said Barbano.

His hope is that the process and derived ingredients, both still in development, will boost revenues for dairy farmers by increasing the demand for protein from skim milk. "The beverage market is very large, and a small market penetration could sell a lot of milk protein," said Barbano, who is working with various companies with the hope that the drinks will be developed in New York.