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Sports nutrition drives sales of whey proteins

Sales of premium quality whey for applications in sports nutrition are buoyant, according to a new report by Denmark-based analysts 3A Business Consulting.

The report – entitled Global Opportunities for Whey and Lactose Ingredients 2010-14 – states that volume sales of whey proteins are rising strongly. Value sales are also ticking along nicely. This year, whey powder, proteins and protein factions will rack up sales of $5 billion rising to $6.4 billion in 2014 – annual growth of 4%.

Growth is being driven, according to 3A, by sales of high-end protein products such as WPC80, isolates and hydrolysates, which are finding favor in the nutrition sector, particularly sports and energy products.

Sales of these ingredients are rising in double-digit figures, says 3A, but at the other end of the scale sales of basic whey powder and other lower value products are stagnating.

3A said the fact that that prices have stabilized after soaring then plunging between 2006 and 2008 has helped the market for whey ingredients.

Tage Affertsholt, managing partner at 3A, explained: "The extreme price increases in 2006 and first half of 2007 forced many food manufacturers to replace expensive whey ingredients with cheaper food ingredients, resulting in less demand for products. However, demand has been re-established at previous levels in 2010, assisted by lower prices and recovery of the global economy."

Meanwhile, UK-based dairy ingredients supplier Volac has said it believes whey protein has the potential to become more popular in mainstream health and fitness products, rather than simply among the hardcore of athletes and fitness fanatics.

The company conducted research among consumers who undertake moderate exercise and found that there was interest in a whey-protein drink in a convenient format.

Almost a quarter of respondents (24 percent) said they were interested in a product containing whey protein to help with muscle recovery, and 53 percent of this group said they would prefer to take the whey protein as a bottled drink.

Mark Neville, head of lifestyle ingredients at Volac, said: "This new research reveals mainstream consumer interest in post exercise muscle recovery products based on whey protein across a range of sport sectors, from endurance sports such as swimming, running and cycling through to team sports and individuals engaged in regular exercise for health and fitness reasons.

"With today’s hectic lifestyles, consumers trying to maintain a physical fitness regime place a high value on convenience. As this study indicates, there is already consumer interest in a whey protein-based muscle recovery product in a convenient bottle format. Once consumer awareness develops about the importance of whey protein to the recovery process and the significance of both the quantity and timing of the intake, then consumer demand for the ready-to-drink format is only set to increase."