Protein holds steady in 2017 but consumers become more sophisticated in their demands

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Protein holds steady in 2017 but consumers become more sophisticated in their demands

Related tags: Protein, Amino acid, Essential amino acid

Protein shows no sign of petering out in 2017 with many consumers still listing it as an “ideal attribute” for fortification across categories and an ever-growing list of sources from which manufacturers can choose, according to a product development firm. 

“Manufacturers continue to rebrand and roll out new products that prominently feature protein claims and the protein content continues to increase with each new launch,”​ Laura Dembitzer, marketing director at Imbibe, said during a recent presentation.

She explained that ingredient continues to have a prime position in manufacturers’ formulating and product development toolboxes in part because, according to Mintel, 25% of consumers say it is their ideal ingredient for fortifying their favorite products.

What’s more, the ingredient market is set to reach $43 billion by 2024, according to new research from Global Market Insight, and manufacturers are understandably eager to get a slice of that pie, she said.

But as the trend matures, it is no longer enough simply to call out “protein”​ on labeling and in marketing. Now, manufacturers need to carefully select the best protein for their target audience and communicate its unique benefits, Dembitzer said.

“Certain consumers are going to be more discerning about the source of protein in their products. It is not just about the total protein content, but it is about where is the protein coming from,”​ she said.

For example, she said, “whey protein is going to be considered the gold standard – especially among sports nutrition consumers.”

She explained that whey protein comes in two different forms – as a concentrate and an isolate, the latter of which is more concentrated and therefore more expensive.

A less expensive option is casein, which absorbs slower and, therefore, is well-suited for sleep-products or other instances where you want to provide the blood stream with a slower release of amino acids so it will last longer, Dembitzer said.

“There is also an increased interest in alternative sources and alternative ways to consume protein as many consumers are eating less meat,”​ she said.

Pea protein has risen to the top as one of the most commonly used options, but its less than desirable flavor profile has left an opening for other options to emerge.

One such rising star is brown rice protein, which Dembitzer says has a “better, cleaner profile.”​ She added that for this reason, it is often blended with pea protein.

“Other sources are emerging, including algae protein and insect protein,”​ she added. However, she noted that she expects insect protein “to stay quite fringe.”

Lentils, nuts, quinoa and legumes also are hot sources of protein fortification in the restaurant space, but Dembetizer does not think they will transfer easily to CPGs because they are more difficult to formulate.

Claims also should be tailored

Claims also must be tailored to deliver the most effective message to increasingly sophisticated consumers, Dembitzer said.

For audiences most well-versed in protein, claims about the percent daily value delivered are most effective because it also communicates about the quality of the protein.

Other FDA defined claims such as “good”​ or “excellent source”​ of protein are influential. But for products that don’t meet the requirements for those claims, simply stating the number of grams of protein on the front panel is an effective strategy to catch consumers’ attention, Dembitzer said. 

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