Consumers' protein choices changing

Consumers' protein choices changing

More than ever, consumers are diversifying their daily sources of protein while also looking for quick, convenient products like protein bars and shakes.

Acosta Sales & Marketing, a leading full-service sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, released its latest industry research report, The Personalization of Protein. Amidst protein’s surge in popularity among Americans, this report explores how consumers are changing the ways they acquire their daily protein beyond traditional meat sources. It details protein purchasing trends, including interest in protein alternatives, and identifies the motivating factors behind shoppers’ decisions. The report also leverages this research to offer insightful recommendations on how CPG companies and retailers can best respond to consumers’ interest in protein.

“While protein has universally muscled its way into the top ranks of the American diet psyche, our research shows that for consumers, protein preferences are personal,” said Colin Stewart, senior vice president of Acosta. “More than ever, consumers are diversifying their daily sources of protein while also looking for quick, convenient products like protein bars and shakes. At the same time, many still need guidance in making smart choices, which provides a golden opportunity for CPGs and retailers to educate and attract shoppers.”

The Personalization of Protein report reveals that:

Alternative protein sources are in demand. The playing field is becoming increasingly competitive as consumers look to sources other than meat for their daily protein intake.

  • Consumers cite nuts (64 percent) as the most popular replacement for meat protein, followed by beans/lentils (63 percent), dairy/eggs (56 percent), rice/pasta/quinoa (50 percent) and supplements like bars and shakes (21 percent).
  • More than 31 percent of shoppers indicated they purchased meat alternatives, such as tofu and texturized vegetable protein over the past year, with Millennials leading the charge at just over 50 percent.
  • Among all generations, cost is the primary driver behind buying less meat, followed by health and wellness. Boomers are the most cost conscious, while Silents (age 65+) and Millennials are the most health conscious.

Protein supplements are replacing traditional meals. With busy, on-the-go lifestyles, consumers are increasingly likely to eat two traditional meals per day and use meal replacements or snacks to augment dietary needs.

  • Almost 50 percent of shoppers using protein shakes/bars use them as meal replacements at least one to two times per week.
  • Millennials use protein supplements as meal replacements most frequently, followed by Generation X, while the majority of Silents are not using them at all.
  • Since 2009, unit sales of protein supplements have doubled, reflecting consumers’ interest in health and fitness.

Consumers are confused about protein. While consumers cite protein as the most important nutrient for a healthy lifestyle, they need more education about its role in a healthy diet.

  • Thirty percent of shoppers have no idea of the recommended daily protein amounts for adults.
  • More than a quarter of shoppers are not sure if eating more protein makes you feel fuller, or stay fuller longer.
  • Sixty percent of Millennial shoppers, and only 48 percent of Silent shoppers, indicated they believe a person can achieve their necessary daily amount of protein without meat.

The Personalization of Protein was compiled using research conducted by Acosta, as well as the company’s experience working with the nation’s largest CPG manufacturers and retailers. To access the full report, visit


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