‘Demonstrating quality’: MuscleBlaze develops test kit for consumers to verify protein powder authenticity
The test kit, currently only sold in India, is meant to help consumers verify protein powder authenticity at an affordable price without having to visit the lab.
Known as MB ProCheck, each test kit consists of a test tube and glass vial containing a patented test solution.
Consumers will need to pour 10ml of the protein shake that they want to test into 35ml of the test solution into a test tube and shake the solution for about 10 seconds.
Curdling will start to happen if the product contains whey protein. In the next five to seven minutes, the curds will start to settle at the base of the test tube and coagulate. No curdling or precipitation will be seen if whey protein is absent.
“What happens when you boil an egg? The nature of the egg proteins means that it will turn solid, because of the coagulation of the protein molecules.
“Similarly, if the product contains protein, coagulation will occur and the amount of coagulation is indicative of the amount of protein,” Kaustuv Paliwal, brand head at MuscleBlaze told NutraIngredients-Asia.
If the test tube is left untouched for the next 18 to 24 hours, consumers measure the amount of the curds that have solidified at the bottom of the test tubes to find out the percentage of whey protein present.
The greater the amount of curds formed, the higher the percentage of whey protein present.
“Within 45 to 50 minutes, you will be able to get a sense, but for accurate results, it is better to wait 18 to 24 hours.”
Using the protein measurement chart that comes with the test kit, if the amount of curds formed is more than 11ml, the whey protein level will be more than 85 per cent.
If 10 to 11ml of curds is formed, the percentage of whey protein will be between 75 and 85 per cent.
Through the process, consumers will be able to find out if the actual amount of whey protein matches with the label claims.
Each test kit box contains two test kit and is sold at US$2.40 each.
MB ProCheck is said to be the world’s first protein test kit suited for home use.
The firm has applied to patent the technology in India and in the US.
Watch the following video by MuscleBlaze to find out how does the test kit work.
Let consumers see for themselves
Instead of simply saying how certain brands are selling inferior products, Paliwal said it was more important to let consumers see for themselves the quality of products using the test kits.
“We don’t believe in [simply] saying that they are wrong, and we are right.”
He added that some retailers were complicit as they could get a greater cut from the illicit product sales, but there were no feasible methods for consumers to verify the quality of their purchase.
“When this company started about 10 years ago, there were overseas brands which entered the country through legitimate rules, but fakes also started to come in.
“Because for a shopkeeper, he might earn 400 rupees for selling the authentic product, but when he sells the fake one, he might earn 1,500 rupees, that’s four times higher. So they have an interest in selling fake products every now and then, because there is also no way for a consumer to tell whether a product is fake or not,” Paliwal said.
These fake protein powder could be made from maltodextrin or flour, he pointed out.
As the protein powder category flourished in India, there is also a rise in low quality products.
“Our major growth has come in the last five years, where we have become a very dominant local brand. However, after seeing our success, a lot of Indian players also started selling protein in the country, but not with the right intent.
“Some mixed maltodextrin or fillers into the product and claimed that it contained 70 per cent or 80 per cent of protein.”
As a result, he said that these companies were able to sell their products at only half of MuscleBlaze’s products for seemingly an equal amount of whey protein.
“Some had even become the bestsellers on some of the leading e-commerce platforms of India, they became so big and we were fussing about the problem, because it just casts us in a bad light [by selling products at higher prices.
“Now, we no longer need to play the value game and provide deep discounts, because we can demonstrate that our products are of high quality,” he said.
A dreamy idea
This motivated the company to develop a test kit suitable for home use about 1.5 years ago, so that consumers can see for themselves the difference between the exceedingly cheap products and MuscleBlaze’s products.
“We went to our R&D and gave them a very dreamy idea, that consumers could test the quality of their protein products at home.
“The reply was that protein testing is done by the labs and anybody can send it to the labs, but the harsh reality that is a lab will charge you 800 rupees per test…However, to make economic sense, the test kit cannot cost more than five per cent of the protein powder,” Paliwal said.
In the initial stage, the company managed to achieve 70 per cent accuracy for the test kit developed – still a distance away from its goal of attaining an accuracy rate of 90 per cent.
The company benchmarked its test kits to that of the high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) tests which are usually conducted in labs.
Aside from its own products, the company also tested the kit on products from 27 brands, including both imported and local brands, to verify the test kit’s accuracy and consistency.
It took the company about three to four iterations before the test kit was finalised.
Once the test kits were manufactured, the firm repeated the test on products from the 27 brands to validate the results.
The next step is to introduce the test kits to overseas markets, such as the US, and also to develop test kits for verifying the authenticity of other nutritional products such as fish oil.
“What I have learned from comments left on our social media and speaking to experts, it’s the same problem for other countries,” Paliwal said.