“The average consumer doesn’t even know the protein RDI,” Cheryl Reid, key account manager for Arla Food Ingredients told FoodNavigator-USA at the SupplySide West show in Las Vegas last week, “so yes, the protein segment will continue to grow.”
A discussion about protein often begins with the elephant in the room: Sports nutrition. Euromonitor figures from 2013 showed that protein constituted nearly 85% of the sports nutrition market in 2013, excluding sports and energy drinks.
Arla Food Ingredients has developed proteins to play to the various consumers of sports nutrition products, with the Lacprodan DI-7017 ingredient positioned for the mainstream/everyday consumers, and the Hydro 365 positioned for the serious endurance athlete. The latter, a whey protein hydrolysate that has rapid absorption to enhance recovery after training, is UHT stable and pH flexible, which allows it to play in all forms of beverages, including clear beverages. DI-7017, however, doesn’t form clear beverages.
“We’re continuing to investigate clear protein beverages,” said Reid, “to get a protein water-type product.”
Breakfast bars 7 cereals
Nutrition bars are another big area for growth, even outpacing the much larger sports drinks category, according to Packaged Facts. Indeed, sales of bars were expected to reach $2.6bn in 2013, a 14% increase compared to 2012; while sports drinks grew 6% from 2012-13, reaching $7.4bn in sales last year.
While Arla Food Ingredients is looking at the wider segment, it has a particular interest in breakfast bars, which Reid describes as an “area of opportunity”.
And from breakfast bars, it’s a relatively short leap to breakfast cereal. Protein is already making a splash in that sector, with Post Foods’ Great Grains Protein Blend Whole Grain Cereal (launched in 2013) offering 8g of protein per serving. “The Post Protein cereal has done the segment a great service,” said Reid.
A challenge of fortifying products with whey protein is the allergy issue: Adding dairy protein to a product that traditionally doesn’t contain dairy means that you’re introducing an allergen, explained Reid. Breakfast cereals are usually consumed with milk, so the allergen has already been introduced, which opens the way for whey fortification of the cereal itself, she said.
The aging population
Another opportunity for growth is the aging population, she said. Muscle loss is a natural part of aging, and researchers have estimated that, after the age of 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscles each year. Strength declines as well, at a rate of 1.5% per year beginning at 50 years and accelerating to 3% after the age of 60.
According to a monograph from the US Dairy Export Council, the direct health care cost attributable to sarcopenia (degenerative muscle loss) were estimated to be $18.5 billion in 2000 in the US, a number that represented about 1.5% of health care expenditures for that year.
While there have been calls to increase protein recommendations for healthy older adults to 1.0 to 1.2 g protein/kg body weight/day, a challenge for formulators is volume. “The elderly have a difficult time consuming volume,” explained Reid. “Will the elderly really consume a protein bar? Perhaps for the elderly we need to look into fortifying creamer or bread,” she said.
The obesity question
Looking at the rise in the obesity levels, Reid said that many people are over-eating and yet are under-nourished. Arla is investigating the potential to fortify everyday food products to capitalize on the satiating power of protein. “Can we put protein into French fries? It’s counter-intuitive, but whey in a French fry would lead to people eating fewer French fries. It could be effective.
“Also, what about ketchup? It’s mostly sugar right now and a lot of people use ketchup. Can we fortify with protein? Yes, because we’ve done it.”