Plant protein bars
Consumers' movement away from animal protein is spurring innovation in the plant-based protein bar category.

KANSAS CITY — Consumers are in pursuit of protein. Its link to physical fitness and satiety, as well as its role in a nutritious diet, has driven an increase in demand for protein-packed products.

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2016 Food and Health Survey found 64% of respondents said they were trying to consume more protein, which was up from 54% in the 2015 survey.

But the kind of protein consumers seek is changing.

Another part of the IFIC survey reflected better on plant protein than on animal protein. When asked if their opinion on plant protein had changed over the last year, 8% said they considered it less healthful than they did last year, 21% said more healthful, 54% said their opinion had not changed, and 16% said they were not sure. The answers for animal protein were 15% less healthful, 12% more healthful, 58% no change, and 14% not sure.

Tom Vierhile, Canadean
Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director for Canadean.

“Plant protein is definitely trending for a variety of reasons,” said Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director for market research firm Canadean. “For one, animal-based protein is coming under increasing fire, with the World Health Organization issuing its recent warning that processed meat causes cancer and upping the projected risk of processed meat.

“Animal-based protein sources also have issues with antibiotics and growth hormones. Friends of the Earth recently issued a report that graded operators of 25 of America’s largest fast-food and fast-casual restaurants. They found that only 5 of the 25 restaurants evaluated for their use of antibiotics in meat and poultry products received a passing grade.”

The shift from creatures to crops has caught food manufacturers’ attention, driving innovation in the plant-based protein category.

Vega protein bars
Vega Foods’ new Vega Protein+ Snack Bars contain 11 grams of plant-based protein made from a blend of pea and rice protein and nuts.

Mintel’s Global New Products Database shows the number of global food launches containing pea protein increased by more than 80% between 2013 and 2015. In the United States, Mintel said, pea protein, rice protein, chia seed and quinoa are rising in use in protein snack bars.

Pea and rice protein serve as the power behind Vega Foods’ new Vega Protein+ Snack Bars, available in chocolate peanut butter and chocolate caramel flavors. Containing ingredients made from peas, leafy greens, sprouts, grasses and vegetables, the certified vegan bars contain 11 grams of plant-based protein made from a blend of pea and rice protein and nuts.

Amazing Grass is expanding its plant-based bars lineup with its new Organic Protein Superfood bars in chocolate peanut butter and chocolate almond butter varieties. Featuring 12 grams of pea and brown rice protein, the bars consist of almond butter or peanut butter enrobed in chocolate.

Amazing Grass protein bars
Amazing Grass Organic Protein Superfood bars feature 12 grams of pea and brown rice protein.

“Our new Organic Superfood Bars combine the convenience of an easy, on-the-go snack with the nutrient-dense power of seven alkalizing greens, protein and fiber in one delicious little package,” said Todd Habermehl, co-founder of Amazing Grass. “Designed with the busy consumer in mind, our new Organic Superfood Bars provide an easy way for people to eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables in delicious flavors everyone loves.”

Soul Sprout relies on sprouted plant-based ingredients for its new Sprouted Granola Bars and Sprouted Nut Bars. The snacks feature plant-based nutrition from organic nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables, herbs and spices mixed with fruits such as blueberries, cranberries, golden berries and goji berries.

Soul Sprout Sprouted Nut Bars offer 5 to 6 grams of protein per bar and are available in six varieties: Charming Cherry Chocolate, Cranberry Crush, Gotta Getta Gojiberry, Go For Goldenberry, Blueberry Burst and Wow Cacao Nib.

Soul Sprout protein bars
Soul Sprout Sprouted Nut Bars offer 5 to 6 grams of protein per bar.

Soul Sprout Sprouted Granola Bars offer 3 grams of protein per bar and come in five varieties: Bring on the Blueberry, Cacao Nib Crunch, Cranberry Chia Crunch, Gojiberry Triple Yum-Yum and Sweet-N-Tart Goldenberry.

“More and more people are discovering the power of eating a plant-based diet, particularly one that centers on organic and sprouted ingredients,” said Matt Fuller, chief executive officer of Soul Sprout. “At Soul Sprout, we craft delicious organic snacks packed with lively, sprouted ingredients to help you feel great, heal yourself when things get out of balance and function at your highest level.”