How to make the most of the protein trend

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are showing great interest in protein-rich drinks, such as tropical protein water, as well as foods
Consumers are showing great interest in protein-rich drinks, such as tropical protein water, as well as foods

Related tags: Ingredients & nutrition, Npd

Taste and health and wellness are the largest trends associated with protein-rich foods as the 'protein revolution' offers product developers 'exciting opportunities', according to Kerry Group.

The company surveyed 6,300 consumers across 12 countries in North America, Asia, Europe and Latin America for its The Protein Mindset:Uncovering Consumers’ Perceptions and Preferences of Proteins​ report.

Taste, quality, natural ingredients and cost ranked highest out of the factors influencing consumers' purchasing of food and drink packed with protein. In Europe, taste came top, with 64% saying it was the most important consideration, followed by 54% stating the prevalence of natural ingredients was the most vital thing for them.

The paper highlights six areas for suppliers to focus on to make the most of the popularity for proteins.

Health & wellness

Health & wellness was top of people's minds, with 50% of respondents associating protein with 'healthy diet' and 46% with 'healthy lifestyle'. Proteins, Kerry concluded, carry a health halo. They are perceived not only as a critical macronutrient, but also as a supporter of overall health, weight management, energy and even immune health.

'Better for you' and 'clean label' were pinpointed as highly important for wellness consumers. Protein fortification, high-quality proteins and clean ingredient formulations were essential for the success of products.

However, the popularity of proteins extended across mainstream and indulgent food and beverages, Kerry found.

Plant proteins are rising in popularity, claims the report, which explored the appeal of 23 different sources of protein (animal, dairy and plant-based) and the relevance of protein fortification across 30 different foods and beverages. "The research highlighted that many plant protein sources hold strong market potential, marked by a positive nutritional perception. However, taste, texture and nutritional optimization remain challenging.

Hybrid proteins

"Hybrid formulations with both plant and dairy protein are appealing to consumers and represent a winning strategy for manufacturers to overcome the taste and texture challenges plant proteins can present."

Provenance is critical to consumer appeal, the paper asserts. Consumers want to know where their food and beverages come from. Sustainability, traceability, and protein quality are excellent selling features that can be used to support differentiation, it claims.

Packaging and communication are pivotal tools of market success. "Specific origin and quality details are key differentiators: positioning and on-pack communication can be strong assets to foster growth in the category, as protein consumers are sensitive to package claims,"​ the report states. "Approached with purpose and care, on-pack claims can yield a competitive advantage."

Fortification

Three quarters of global consumers said they would pay more for added protein. Some said they would pay a premium of 25% or higher for protein fortification.

“Accelerated by COVID-19 and consumer focus on health and rising interest in proactive — versus reactive — nutrition, rapid change has occurred recently in food and beverage markets around the world as broader awareness of the many benefits of protein increasingly drives purchase decisions among mainstream consumers,"​ said Soumya Nair, global director, consumer research and insights at Kerry Group. "This extensive Kerry research puts protein foods and beverages squarely under a microscope to understand where the opportunities lie for brands to innovate.

“There is little doubt the protein revolution in food and beverages offers exciting and dynamic opportunities for all product developers. This timely report provides a range of insights to consider incorporating within their short- and long-term product planning and development processes.”

Six drivers behind the protein trend

1. Proteins carry a 'healthy halo' delivering multiple health benefits beyond general wellness.

2. The popularity of protein extends across mainstream and indulgent food and beverages.

3. Better for you and clean label are highly important for consumers concerned about health and wellbeing.

4. Plant proteins rise in appeal, alongside hybrids formulations.

5. Provenance is critical for consumer appeal.

6. Packaging and communication are pivotal tools of market success - specific origin and quality details are key differentiators.

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