The research found that total of 43% of the 12,000 consumers surveyed said they looked for added protein when choosing foods and beverages for exercise, rising to 52% for those aged 18 to 29.
It said this interest in protein is rising with 31% stating they had increased their use in the past two years compared with only 7% who had decreased usage.
Food Manufacture recently revealed that consumer interest in health and wellness has grown since the pandemic struck, with a focus on protection and immunity and a corresponding need for exercise fueling growth in sports nutrition.
The Arla research, which looked at how people buy into the sports nutrition market and perceive healthy living, identified three distinct consumer types, each with different attitudes to exercise, nutrition, and protein.
The first group, called The Enthusiasts, exercise strenuously at least three times per week and frequently choose food and beverages designed to support athletic performance. They score above average in many areas – for example 93% have a very high interest in protein and 60% actively search for added-protein sports nutrition products.
‘Easy Health’ refers to the second group of consumers, who follow a relatively active lifestyle, balanced with an interest in nutrition, and are likely to respond positively to popular health trends. Like Enthusiasts, they choose protein-rich foods to help with areas such as sports recovery.
Those in the third segment – Healthy Feel Goods – do not prioritise exercise but they have a big focus on how diet impacts health. Healthy Feel Goods are likely to favour drinkable products such as smoothies, waters, and kefir, because they buy into their health benefits (59%) and want beverages that add vitamins and nutrients to their overall diet (56%).
Troels Nørgaard Laursen, director of health & performance nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients said: “Now that the sports nutrition has moved into the mainstream it has become increasingly important for manufacturers in this category to understand consumer attitudes to exercise, nutrition and key ingredients such as protein. We have been able to identify three distinct consumer types, giving some useful pointers in how producers can promote protein to these different segments.”