“There’s only one area of growing interest among consumers right now, and that’s a growing interest in protein,” David Sheluga, consumer insights director for marketing at Ardent Mills, told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Online searches for ‘protein’ were up 50% from early 2011, he said, and in addition more consumers were checking the label for protein.
“That’s the only nutrition fact that’s on the labeled product that consumers are showing an increased interest in.” All other elements on the nutrition facts panel – cholesterol, carbs, calories etc. – were losing or had flat interest, he said.
Weight management and satiety opportunities
Protein had morphed from its traditional roots of muscle building into an ingredient that aided weight loss through satiety, Sheluga said. “That’s a place where grain-based foods could play, but they have to move more swiftly to get there.”
Most of the interesting high-protein products could be found in the dairy category, he said, although there were protein and granola bars. However, he said the broader grains category had yet to fully tap into protein.
“The grain-based products are late in the game here, and they need to catch up.”
Asked if Ardent Mills had commenced work on developing protein-rich products, he said: “I’ll say yes, but we’re only at the beginning of it.”
Beyond soy and whey
Sheluga said for grain-based products, protein promise existed in plant-based proteins like bean, pea or quinoa. The latter in particular, he said, had great promise when used as a concentrated protein in snack chips, snack bars or tortillas.
“There’s emerging opportunities in simple, enlightened foods that, although aren’t big enough now to be part of [Ardent Mills’] analysis, look like where the strong growth is,” he said. ‘Free from’ products, for example, or those with added protein, he said.
Ardent Mills wheat trends research had identified three grain-based categories in growth: ‘sweets and snacks’ such as waffles, donuts and cupcakes; ‘super convenient’ such as frozen handheld sandwiches and toaster pastries; and ‘ethnic’ products like pita, naan and bagel thins.