Slideshow: The next big protein sources

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ROCKVILLE, MD. — The next big trend in protein may be protein-plus. Multiple functional claims, such as protein with probiotics or protein with energy, are expected to rise, according to a new Packaged Facts report.

With 62% of consumers seeking to eat more protein, opportunities abound for product developers, said Rick Zambrano, food research editor for Packaged Facts.

“With so much interest in functional foods, protein is at the top of the list,” Mr. Zambrano said. “In fact, high-protein foods that serve dual functions are well-positioned: probiotic drinkable yogurt (digestive health), almonds (heart health, weight loss) and some snack bars (energy, relaxation).”

Recent developments on the protein front include protein-centric menu moves at Taco Bell, with the launch of its Power Protein bowls and burritos, and at Panera Bread, which offers a high-protein Power Menu across day parts. On the retail side, Oscar Mayer’s P3 Portable Protein snack packs and the Kellogg Co.’s Special K Protein cereal, shakes and meal bars emphasize convenience in protein consumption.

“Of course, you’ll find high-protein claims on many products now, in places where you’d expect them, like Greek yogurt lines, snack bars, meal replacement bars and beverages and nut butters,” Mr. Zambrano said. “But you’ll also find them in places you may not, like in Chef Boyardee products, Mamma Chia beverages and snack crackers.”

So, what’s next? Expect to see more food service operators aligning menus around nutrition and functional benefits, Mr. Zambrano said. Additionally, look for high-protein formulations of ancient grain drinks, indulgent nut butters, and protein matched with packaged produce.

Packaged Facts identified five growth areas in the market for high-protein meals and snacks.

Drinkable and macho yogurt

With the U.S. yogurt market projected to reach $9.3 billion by 2017, niche segments such as drinkable yogurt and products marketed to men are heating up. Kefir has emerged as a leading dairy source of protein, offering dual benefits of digestive health and satiety through a combination of probiotics and protein.

Lifeway Foods this year launched a line of vegetable-based kefirs in tomato, cucumber and beet varieties, offering a full serving of vegetables in addition to probiotics and protein. Powerful Yogurt, maker of Greek yogurt targeted to men, is set to introduce Greek yogurt protein drinks next spring. The company recently expanded its line with Greek yogurt products featuring quinoa, chia seeds or oats for added nutrition.

Almonds and nut butters

Recent nutritional positioning of nuts as heart-healthy and high in protein has elevated almonds and nut butters as better-for-you snack options. Supporting the growth are organic and natural claims, new indulgent options and portable formats. Justin’s, for example, recently expanded the packaging options for its nut butters to include 80-calorie squeeze packs for on-the-go consumption.

Heartier snack bars

Leveraging the rise in snacking, more high-protein nutrition bars are hitting the market. Made with nuts or fortified with vegetable protein, products such as Strong & Kind bars, with 10 grams per serving, and Cascadian Farms Protein bars, with 9 grams, provide more protein than a traditional granola bar.

Meat protein analogs

As the quality and appeal of meatless alternatives improve, such products as eggless eggs and chicken or beef substitutes are gaining ground. Twenty-eight per cent of consumers seek out vegetarian sources of protein, according to Packaged Facts, as more Americans adopt flexitarian lifestyles and increased interest in sustainable ingredient sourcing.

“While meat is an ideal protein source, vegetarian protein sources are becoming more popular now that there are more appealing center-of-plate options,” Mr. Zambrano said. “Analogs for chicken meat that have much better taste and texture are being introduced.”

Exotic meats

Charcuterie, craft salumi and wild boar are growing on fine-dining menus, as consumers increasingly seek local and less mass-produced sources of meat. Forty-one per cent of consumers choose foods from animals raised humanely, Packaged Facts said.
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