“Protein has been hot for the past few years and that is not slowing down at all. Rather, it is still a very favorable ingredient” that consumers are actively seeking in a variety of familiar applications that extend beyond the traditional bars and dry-blended beverages that have dominated the high-protein segment for years, said Greg Paul, global marketing director of Consumer Segments at DuPont Nutrition and Health.
Indeed, in the past two years, 26% of Americans say they have increased their protein intake, and claims about “added,” “high in” and “source of” protein have risen into the top 15 claims in product launches in 2015, according to research presented at SupplySide West by Joanna Clifton, global account manager at Innova Market Insights.
A key driver of consumer interest in protein is its ability to satiate hunger, lending it to weight management efforts, as well as sports nutrition goals, Clifton said. She added that 78% of Americans told Innova that they were very or extremely interested in products that will keep them feeling full.
Manufacturers are responding to this demand by launching more protein-packed products across food and beverage categories, she added.
She noted that the number of new product launches claiming “high” or “source of” protein grew 29% in North America in 2014 compared to 2013 and the total share of product launches with protein claims has climbed from 3.1% in 2010 to 8.1% in the first half of 2015.
Bakery items and snacks hold protein potential
While consumers continue to buy traditional high-protein products, like bars and shakes, they increasingly are looking for the ingredient in other segments, according to Innova research.
In particular, bakery, dairy and snacks are the fastest growing categories for protein claims, up 37%, 24% and 13% respectively from 2013 to 2014, according to Innova.
Notably cereal passed sports nutrition by almost double as the top market category for product launches making protein claims in 2014, according to Innova.
This development emphasizes the value mainstream consumers now place on protein, Paul said.
“For years you wouldn’t see high protein cereals because of the economics of it,” Paul said, explaining: “Protein is a far more expensive ingredient than corn or wheat or anything else typically found in cereal, so when you start putting it in there it adds significant cost. But consumers are very willing to pay more for protein now.”
High protein cereals also are a good application for showing off the different attributes of protein and have broad appeal because they are an item the whole family can eat for different reasons, Paul said. He explained parents might want to eat a high protein cereal to help with satiety and weight management while active children might want to eat it for muscle building and recovery.
Snacks also are a promising format for protein as more consumers eat snacks for meals and, therefore, are looking for healthier, more nutritionally balanced options, Paul said.
“Snacks historically have been more fat and carbohydrates,” but adding protein can make them more filling and meal-like, and also help set them apart from the competition, he said.
Clifton noted that many manufacturers already are seizing the opportunity of high-protein snacks. Innova found 12.8% of snacks launched in the US in the first half of 2015 made protein claims. This is up from 5.8% in 2010.
When formulating snacks with protein, Paul encourages manufacturers to think beyond just protein powder as an ingredient and to consider nuggets and crisps as options for different textures and formats.
This range of ingredient formats makes it possible for high-protein snack launches like puffed chips, dehydrated peas, nuts and sophisticated meat snacks, Clifton said.
Diverse beverages deliver protein on the go
Beverages and energy shots are another area of potential growth for high-protein products, according to Paul and Clifton.
Paul says DuPont currently is systematically evaluating where in the beverage segment protein best fits, and in preparation it is expanding its applications in the segment with the launch of a rapid dispersing form of soy protein aimed at functional beverages.
Clifton also sees protein entering more energy shots with the late 2014 and 2015 launches of Frog Fuel Protein Shot, Probalance Protein 15 Plus Energy Shot and Biotechusa Bcaa Shot Liquid Amino Acid Formula.
In addition, she sees more protein drinks adding vitamin B for an added energy boost, such as Stonyfield Farm OP Organic Protein Chocolate Smoothie, Iconic Chocolate Truffle Flavored Protein Drink and Abbot Eas Complete Protein Drink – all of which launched this year.
Clifton also noted that several novel juices launched in 2014 with protein – illustrating that the ingredients is not restricted to shakes. Nor is it in restricted to dairy beverages, as illustrated by the launches of Rawpothecary Coffee Protein Fuel Food Drink in March, Botan Berry Blend Flavored Plant-based Protein Drink in May and Green Mustache O’ Soy Good Organic Fruit and Veggie Juice Smoothie in June.
Other areas with promise for protein include indulgent flavors and textures, organic products and vegetarian and vegan options, Clifton said.
Discover what else is on the horizon for the protein trend by tuning into our free online webinar about the future of protein Nov. 4. Learn more and register quickly and easily HERE.