Perhaps it’s time to upgrade the good old saying “to separate wheat from chaff” to “to separate whey from cheese”. Whey, which is a protein-rich byproduct of cheese-making, is made from the liquid residue collected from cheese manufacturing.

Once considered no more than cheese waste, whey is now a coveted source of protein for the fitness enthusiast. It helps people meet their 60 gm/day protein requirements—the amount of protein a human body needs in a day—without the need for a protein-rich meal.

Now, India is a highly protein-deficient country. Over 80% Indians are protein deficient as per a 2017 Indian Market Research Bureau report. Moreover, Indian bodies, due to the high consumption of carbohydrates in staple foods, can’t process protein efficiently, claims health supplements brand MuscleBlaze. 

Enter MuscleBlaze’s pitch to Indians as of September. The flagship product of sports nutraceutical company HealthKart claims its Biozyme Whey protein powder can result in 50% more protein absorption in Indian consumers, when compared to regular whey protein. The company, which tested its product by way of a medical study, refused to reveal the sample size. The test was carried out on Indian male subjects aged 20-36 years, as per its website.

The study was registered with the Clinical Trials Registry and carried out in a lab accredited by India’s Central Drug Standard Control Organisation and National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories, along with Malaysia’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.

This is unusual for a food supplements company. Nobody vets food products for clinical outcomes in India; food products are not required to undergo clinical trials by Indian law. MuscleBlaze “just chose to have a medical approach to this one”, claims HealthKart’s founder-CEO Sameer Maheshwari.

The seven-year-old Gurugram-based HealthKart’s patent-pending absorption formula is its latest addition to an array of whey protein supplements. And it might be onto something, for India, despite being the largest milk producer in the world, imports most of its whey. And the imports are only increasing, and fast.

India’s import of whey and other milk constituents rose from 18.41% in 2006 to 52.56% in 2017—out of the total dairy imports of $23.5 million and $43.8 million, respectively—at a CAGR of 18.4%, according to the export-import data of India’s ministry of commerce and industry.

Most dairy manufacturers in India, though, are laying off what appears to be a grand opportunity here.

The production of milk and cheese, as it turns out, is like, well, chalk and cheese. As India isn’t traditionally a cheese-consuming country, with cheese production figures at $410 million—as estimated in a Parag Foods report—the past year (as opposed to $79.02 billion for milk), dairy companies aren’t too keen on whey-making.


Suraksha P

Suraksha writes on Healthcare and Pharma. She has been a journalist for five years, reporting for The New Indian Express in Bengaluru and Chennai, and The Times of India, Delhi. In her previous stints she has written on health, civic issues and education. She investigated cover up of corruption in the state health department’s think tank, narrated harrowing tales of women who underwent unwarranted hysterectomies, and wrote about how loss of biometrics came in the way of Leprosy patients getting an Aadhaar card and thereby pension. She can be reached at suraksha at the-ken dot com.

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