Options abound for beverage product developers seeking to add value to their products.

Flagged on the packages of products in almost every aisle of the supermarket, protein may be the “nutrient of the decade.” As with any trend, some say it’s just a fad and will go away soon, but others believe this growing popularity is the beginning of a new approach to healthy eating and drinking, as beverages are proving to be a convenient carrier of both animal and plant proteins.

“Protein is here to stay,” said Polly Olson, vice-president of sales and marketing for Davisco, a business unit of Agropur Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn. “For so long consumers have been told ‘don’t eat this or that.’ Now they are being told to eat protein, and that’s refreshing.”

Focusing on protein intake makes sense in terms of improving the diet. If you eat more protein while managing calorie intake, by default you eat less carbohydrate and fat, two nutrients consumers have been advised to eat less of for improved health.

“We expect protein’s popularity to continue to grow given the broad range of benefits associated with consumption, including weight management, energy, satiety, muscle growth, strength, endurance and more,” said Roger Dake, director of research and development, International Dehydrated Foods Inc. (I.D.F.), Springfield, Mo. “Evolving breakfast and snacking habits are also driving this growth, as consumers are looking to include more protein at these eating occasions.”

Jane Whittinghill, new product development scientist, ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis, said, “The younger population is looking to increase their muscle mass while older consumers are consuming more protein for health reasons.”

The numbers speak for themselves. More than half (54%) of consumers are trying to get a certain amount or as much as possible protein in their daily diet, according to the 2015 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation, Washington.

This statistic reinforces findings in “Proteins — classic, alternative and exotic sources: culinary trend tracking series” from Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md., where 62% of consumers agree they are “making a point of getting enough protein” from the foods and beverages they consume. As the title of the report suggests, that protein is coming from a variety of sources, making the growing protein-enriched beverage category interesting.