At the same time, long-held consumer associations for protein to immunity, bone health, healthy hair, skin, and nails, and tissue repair have been left unaddressed.
In 2016, 64% of U.S. adults tried to get more protein, according to IFIC’s Food & Health Survey; those aged 25-34 were the most likely to do so, according to Packaged Facts’ 2016 report Food Formulation and Ingredient Trends: Plant Proteins. One in five specifically sought out foods/beverages formulated with vegetarian/plant protein, led by those aged 25–39, Asian Americans, and Hispanics.
Nearly nine in 10 adults believe that protein builds muscle and provides extra energy; more than 70% that it helps maintain muscle during aging, aids exercise recovery, and helps you feel full. More than 50% think protein helps increase lean body mass, aids weight loss, provides long-lasting energy, and suppresses hunger between meals. Seventy-one percent agree that it’s important to distribute protein intake throughout the day, according to IFIC.
Globally, one-third of consumers say foods/drinks high in protein are very important, as reported in Nielsen’s 2016 “What’s in Our Food and on Our Mind: Ingredient Report.”
Euromonitor ranks protein as the fourth-fastest growing healthy ingredient worldwide, right behind botanicals/bioactives, cultures, polysaccharides/oligosaccharides, and above vitamins/minerals.
High Protein Foods & Drinks
For the first time, nutritional/supplement drinks, bars, and meal replacements—all with highly successful protein fortified options—were among the top 10 fastest growing food/beverage categories in the U.S., up 9.8% for the year ended Oct. 1, 2016, according to Nielsen.
Nutrition Business Journal projected that meal replacement sales will reach $4.4 billion in 2017, sports powders $5.2 billion, and nutrition bars $4.6 billion in 2017. In 2016, 46% of adults bought a bar formulated with protein, per Packaged Facts (see Figure 1).
Protein drink sales topped $2.3 billion in 2016, per IRI. Protein is among the top 10 “hot” need states for beverages in 2017, per Beverage Industry’s executive new product development survey. When asked to choose their ideal beverage attribute, 28% of consumers cited high protein, per Mintel, 2016 Global Food & Beverage Trend Report.
For the year ended Oct. 2, 2016, unit sales of Slim Fast weight control/nutritional liquid/powder jumped 281% in mass channels, Ensure Active 141%, and Premier Protein 99%. Quest high protein bars were up 74% in unit sales, per IRI.
In terms of dollar sales, healthy snacks, followed by frozen entrees, salty snacks, and frozen breakfast sandwiches are the largest dollar categories carrying a protein claim; hot cereal, frozen appetizers/pizza, and specialty grains were the fastest growing (see Figure 2).
Milks fortified with protein enjoyed brisk sales for the year ended Aug. 8, 2016; jerky snack sales grew nearly 8% annually for the past five years, per IRI.
Breakfast has been refocused from carb-driven, to a protein-focused opportunity. Soups and ice cream are among the latest high protein categories in Western Europe.
Sales of plant-based foods/beverages topped $4.9 billion, up 3.5% for the year ended June 12, 2016 (SPINS, 2016).
Sales of dairy alternative beverages reached $4.2 billion in sales, meat alternatives increased 3.8% to $595.6 million, and cheese alternatives grew 13.3% to $96.1 million in 2016 (SPINS).
Eight in 10 households prepare meals based on proteins other than meat/poultry at least once a week. Fish is the most frequently served protein alternative by 57%, eggs 52%, beans/lentils/legumes 37%, quinoa/plant-based protein 18%, seeds/nuts 17%, veggie burgers 13%, and soy/tofu 8%, according to FMI’s 2017 Power of Meat survey (see Figure 3).
Soy dominates as the protein source in 71% of U.S. meat alternatives, followed by wheat protein 34%, pea 18%, and milk 3%. Six in 10 millennials ate meatless burgers, poultry, or crumbles last year, per Mintel’s Protein Report: Meat Alternatives - US – 2017.
U.S. Hispanics are the heaviest users of dairy alternative beverages formulated with protein (45%), followed by Asian consumers at 42%. In 2016, nuts/seeds were most often used in vegetarian protein formulations, followed by soy protein, per Packaged Facts.
Millennials and Gen Xers, as well as households with children, are driving interest in alternative snacks. Forty-two percent of millennials had eaten one or more pulse-based snacks in the past month, according to Packaged Facts (see Figure 4).
In 2016, 15% of U.S. adults took a protein supplement, ranking it the 10th most used dietary supplement (see Figure 5). One in five who used a sports supplement used a protein powder; 11% took an amino acid in 2016, per the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2016 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.
Among mainstream sports nutrition users, after health maintenance, immunity, weight loss, beauty (hair and nails), energy for training, and muscle building are their top supplement goals—perfect to pair with protein (Drug Store News Survey, 2016).
Soy protein accounted for 9.1% of the $5.2 billion sports nutrition protein powder sector in 2016, pea 4.9%, and rice 3.9% (NBJ, 2017).
China, the U.S., India, Mexico, and South Korea are the top protein supplement markets by sales. Euromonitor projected sports nutrition sales would grow 50% from 2016 to 2020; sports drinks by 21%. “More protein” is among the reasons consumers would buy more energy and sports beverages, per Mintel.
Protein is projected to be the third most used supplement in Asia-Pacific through 2020, behind calcium and ginseng, per Euromonitor (2017).
The U.K., Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Germany are the world’s largest sports nutrition markets. Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trends reported an increase of 110% in pre-workout claims over the past five years; 30% in post-workout claims. Powder formats that add nutrition to foods/drinks are also on the rise.
- Supplements, vitamins, sports nutrition, supplement nutrition drinks/tonics, meal replacements, and slimming formulas, are projected to be the fastest-growing global healthcare categories through 2020 (Euromonitor 2017).
- Those aged 55 and over are currently the least interested in protein. However, 70% of adults age 50 and over are aware of losing muscle with age; 34% are extremely concerned (Abbott, 2016). Target those aged 50 and older with mobility and sarcopenia concepts built on protein.
- Calorie counting is the most popular weight loss behavior, used by 50%; followed by meal replacement shakes/bars 24%, vegetarian/vegan diets 19%, and high-protein diets 18% (Mintel, Weight Loss – US, 2016).
- Sports nutrition continues to mainstream as consumers around the globe embrace a healthy and fit lifestyle. Half of those aged 20-69 in China exercise for at least 30 minutes more than three times per week; 53% in the U.S. (Gallup 2016)
- More than 1.6 billion adults are overweight; 600 million are obese. Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Australia, U.S., U.K., and Saudi Arabia have the highest overweight prevalence (WHO, 2016).
- About 47% of households with kids try to get more protein, per Packaged Facts (2017). With 30 million children participating in organized sports, kid’s protein sport products remain a big idea.
- Infant formula is the largest and fastest growing health/wellness packaged food category in the world. Gerber’s new non-GMO Good Start is formulated with Comfort Proteins that are “easy for tiny tummies to digest.”