Protein-packed items may need specific messaging

by Jeff Gelski
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Kashi Protein cereal, Gardein protein sliders, Vega plant protein bar
Thirty-eight per cent of U.S. adults said they seek to add more protein to their diets, and among those, 35% said they consume products with plant-based protein.

ORLANDO, FLA. — Merely promoting protein on the front of a package no longer may lead to successful food or beverage launches. As the protein-based product category matures, companies may think about highlighting specific traits such as plant-based sources or muscle mass maintenance.

Data from the Mintel Global New Products Database show U.S. protein product launches jumped to 418 in 2013 from 255 in 2012. However, the number of launches dropped to 377 in 2014 and 265 in 2015.

Heather Granato, vice-president, content, for the Global Health & Nutrition Network, a business of London-based Informa Group, P.L.C.
Heather Granato, vice-president, content, for the Global Health & Nutrition Network

“Protein product launches have sort of softened in the last few years,” said Heather Granato, vice-president, content, for the Global Health & Nutrition Network, a business of London-based Informa Group, P.L.C.

She said the protein market may be maturing or perhaps people have found it easy to consume protein from many whole foods.

“If I want to get more protein, I might just start eating more eggs on a regular basis,” she said in an April 29 presentation at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando.

People have become familiar with what foods have protein in them, and many items promoted for protein content are in the market now, said Steve French, managing partner of the Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa., at Ingredient Marketplace.

Source: Natural Marketing Institute and Informa Group, P.L.C.

“You can find it in frozen waffles,” he said. “You can find (protein) in every conceivable product out there. We are starting to see a tipping point.”

Companies now need to find the right message and the right format, he said. Plant-based sources potentially are an effective message, according to a recent study.

The Natural Marketing Institute and Informa collaborated on a study that analyzed the six areas of protein, probiotics, digestive health, weight management, omega-3 fatty acids and sports nutrition/performance. They surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and 92 ingredient suppliers.

The study found 38% of U.S. adults said they seek to add more protein to their diets. Among those people, 35% said they consume products with plant-based protein. Among the people that consume plant-based protein, 57% said they are consuming more plant-based protein products this year as compared to last year.

Protein Cheerios, TruMoo Protein milk
Foods and beverages fortified with protein may be another opportunity.

Fortified foods look like another opportunity for protein. The study found that among people who seek to get more protein in their diets, 28% said they use bars fortified with protein. Within that 28%, 59% said they are consuming more bars fortified with protein this year than last year. The percentages were 23% using and 64% using more for shakes fortified with protein powder and  19% using and 64% using more for protein powder supplements.

Eggs led as a protein choice among people trying to get more protein in their diet as 70% consume them to get more protein. Dairy and lean meats both came in at 66%. On the bottom end, only 6% of people looking to get more protein in their diets eat products with insects to get more protein. Cricket protein is on consumers’ radar, however, Mr. French said.

“Is it going anywhere?” Ms. Granato asked of insect-based protein. “I’m not sure.”

The study also surveyed people who are not trying to get more protein into their diets. Forty per cent said they already get enough protein through their regular diet, and 14% said they do not want to gain weight.

The study showed people who are not trying to get more protein in their diet may not know all of protein’s benefits. While 48% of those people said they know protein builds muscle and 44% said they know it helps to maintain muscle mass/strength, the percentages were lower for improves brain function (16%), increases bone density (15%), lessens belly fat (12%) and provides anti-aging skin benefits (9%).

Ms. Granato added many consumers may not understand the issue of sarcopenia, which is a loss of muscle mass related to aging.
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