Protein is essential to human health, making up about 16 percent of total body weight, including structures like hair, muscles and fingernails. While the primary market for protein has traditionally focused on sports performance, new science links protein supplements with health benefits like satiety and weight loss.
According to the latest Global Industry Analysts (GIA) report, the global market for protein ingredients is projected to reach $27.6 billion by 2018, with growth primarily driven by a growing health-conscious population coupled with scientific development, and finally rising income levels of the middle class, particularly in the developed countries.
“With growing consumer interest in adding protein into the diet, functional food and beverage manufacturers are formulating a greater number of products to deliver the greater digestibility, nutrition, and functionality of dairy proteins. While the supplement industry is mainly focused on delivering flavored protein blends to sports nutrition customers, the food and beverage manufacturers are targeting the broader consumer market with tasteful and nutritious solutions,” said Anan Rand, Ph.D., General Manager, Technical Services, at Fonterra.
Even though dairy proteins rule the market, plant-based proteins like soy and brown rice still carry a fair amount of weight with certain consumer segments—the vegan and lactose-intolerant. These days, however, blends including whey, casein and soy help formulators target different consumer segments.
Looking ahead on the development front, replacement of animal-based proteins with cheaper and healthier plant sources will contribute to the strong growth of new protein supplement introductions.
Never more popular was protein intake among consumers than during the Atkins Diet craze in the early part of last decade. As part of the “low-carb” weight-loss program, dieters consumed greater amounts of protein—mostly meat. While the trend died down around 2005—after suffering a great deal of criticism among health professionals—the diet plan today has restructured to emphasize a balanced approach to “low-carb” with frozen, prepared meals containing high-protein foods.
Today, consumers have a better understanding of the role of healthy protein intake. Presently, the Centers for Disease Control recommends adults in the U.S. get between 10 and 35 percent of their daily caloric protein intake from foods. That shakes out to about 46 grams (g) of protein for women, and 56 g for men. Additionally, the European Food Standards Agency has recently recommended higher intakes.
Details from the Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) Health & Wellness Database reveal that 41 percent of respondents want more protein in their diet, while another 45 percent say they would seek out foods high in protein. Further, some 30 percent of respondents said they have used foods enriched with protein in past 30 days.
“Most people are becoming more aware of this market. I think the increased interest comes because protein supplements are convenient. Whey protein powders, especially, have been around a long time and people know it works,” said Marie Spano, MS, of Marie Spano Nutrition Consulting.
NMI data reveals that consumption of high-protein foods/beverages is up 12 percent in the last decade, from 57 percent in 2000 to 63 percent in 2010. Hence, there are four target health areas for protein:
- Weight management
- Sports nutrition
Looking at NMI’s Supplement/Rx/OTC Database, ‘maintain/build muscle’ is reported as one of the primary benefits associated with protein.
For the 52 weeks ending September 29, 2012, U.S. sales of protein supplement blends (non-soy, non-dairy) improved nearly 87 percent over the prior year - the most significant of all retail protein supplement sales in the natural channel, according to SPINS data. However, it was the non-soy protein supplement blends that actually garnered the most sales in the same channel to reach more than $15 million.
Protein products continue to deliver enviable year-over-year growth and added over $2 billion in retail value sales between 2006 and 2011, according to the most recent Euromonitor International figures.
Despite differences in format preference at a national level, protein products (i.e. protein powders, bars and RTD’s with over 20g of protein per serving, and/or protein shots) still account for the majority of sports nutrition sales by format in all seven major geographic regions.
Protein supplements have long been at the core of sports nutrition—consumer health’s fastest growing category. Global sales of protein-based sports nutrition products rose by 59 percent, totaling $5.4 billion between 2006 and 2011, according to Euromonitor.
Nonetheless, there has been a, “dramatic shift in public perception in the last few years,” said Chris Schmidt, Consumer Health Analyst at Euromonitor. “A lot more mainstream consumers, particularly women, are coming to view protein as an important macronutrient.”
With mainstream attention, protein supplements for general health and wellness, satiety and maintaining healthy, lean muscle mass (instead of bulking) will become important consumer segments.
Glanbia Nutritional’s market analyst Max Maxwell says consumers find a label claim indicating “good source of protein” important.
Datamonitor’s 2011 Global Consumer Survey reflects that consumer interest both in the U.S. and globally across 20 countries. According to the survey, nearly 43 percent of U.S. consumers say the claim “high protein” has either a “high” or “very high” amount of influence on their food and beverage choices. In contrast, just 25.6 percent of Americans said that “high protein” has a “very low” or “low” influence on their food and beverage choices.
“Sports nutrition will continue to be a big market for anyone selling protein, but the opportunities outside sports nutrition are also becoming increasingly important,” Schmidt said, adding manufacturers are picking up on these other market opportunities.
Euromonitor’s latest figures reveal that global retail value sales of non-sports nutrition protein powder grew by an astonishing 19 percent annually between 2006 and 2011 reaching $1.6 billion in 2011.