LAS VEGAS — The market for food and beverage products featuring higher levels of protein is ripe with opportunity, said Marie A. Spano, chief executive officer of Marie Spano Nutrition Consulting, Atlanta. Ms. Spano spoke Nov. 7 at the SupplySide West Global Expo and Conference.

Consumer interest in higher protein products is increasing as consumers learn more about the benefits of protein in the diet. Active consumers and athletes demand such products for their beneficial effects on performance, recovery and even hydration. Baby boomers see a need for additional protein to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to ward off conditions such as sarcopenia, which is the degenerative loss of muscle tissue as a person ages.

Ms. Spano noted that while there are a number of protein products currently on the market, she sees opportunity in several areas.

“I think breakfast is a huge opportunity,” she said. “If you look at the marketplace I don’t see a ton of grab and go higher protein foods. There are a number of bars out there, but are there other options? There are a few cereals out there that are higher protein, with about 10 grams or so per serving, but not tons of grab-and-go options.”

Ms. Spano said the baby boomer segment is “wide open.”

“Those are the people who have the time and they have the interest to improve their health,” she said.

She cited the children’s market as a potential opportunity, but cited several possible barriers. The first is available research and the fact that the optimal dose of protein for building muscle in children remains unknown. Second, Ms. Spano noted there may be issues with marketing such products to children.

The market for higher protein products targeting athletes is also ripe with opportunity, Ms. Spano said. She emphasized that such products can’t be knock offs of products currently on the market.

“In the past we’ve had one sports drink for everybody,” she said. “Now there is a lot of differentiation and different athlete groups want products tailored toward them. For example, endurance athletes want to see products targeted toward them.

“Recovery is a huge area. It is probably one of the bigger areas in sports nutrition, but, again, differentiate your market segments. Are you targeting endurance athletes, team sports, yogis or body builders?”

She added that products must deliver, and that consumers need to see a difference or feel a difference over time.

“Clear, simple communication is very important,” she said. “Along with that is constant marketing and sticking with your core segment.”

Ms. Spano used Rockin’ Refuel, a higher protein dairy-based beverage manufactured by Shamrock Farms, Phoenix, as an example.

“Take milk and make it better — That’s what I get from this product,” she said. “It is natural, high quality, made with real milk and has no sugar added. Any parent can understand that and would not have a problem giving this product to her children.”