Post Categories: September 2014

Trending Tastes: Protein’s Power—Catering to Shoppers’ Diverse Needs

sep2014-trending-imgHigh-protein diets have been around for years. First it was Atkins, then South Beach, now Paleo. But as protein’s popularity has grown with the subset of consumers who follow these eating plans, it has also seeped into the wider market. According to the International Food Information Council, 57 percent of consumers made an effort to eat more protein in 2013—up from just 9 percent in 2012. A large part of what makes foods packed with the powerful nutrient so appealing to consumers is the wide-range of benefits they offer to an even wider-range of people.

The biggest target audience most think of first when it comes to protein is athletes—whether that’s young sports players or middle-aged weight lifters. Protein is a key nutrient for building muscle mass, so it’s natural that those looking to stay—or get—in shape would be drawn to it. But interestingly enough, it’s those same muscle-building benefits that are now drawing in older adults. It’s not all about fitness in this case, though. Research has shown that as we age, our bodies aren’t as good at processing protein. So, we have to eat more to maintain the healthy muscles and bones that allow us to be active and independent. Familiar favorites with extra protein added (such as granola bars and cereals) can be an easy way for older adults to meet the extra need.

In addition to followers of the high-protein diets mentioned above, protein also started to appeal to the many consumers today who are seeking a more moderate approach to weight loss and/or maintenance. A large part of its success in this arena is thanks to its ability to help people feel fuller for a longer period of time and to maintain energy levels—thereby avoiding the hunger pains and fatigue that so often bring on afternoon snack attacks.

According to industry experts, this diverse pool of people drawn to high-protein foods is having a significant influence on the products hitting store shelves today. The focus is shifting from die-hard dieters or gym goers to everyday consumers looking for ways to stay healthy and satisfied as they go about their busy daily lives. Market research firm The Hartman Group says this is a major factor affecting the growth of new breakfast foods. From Greek yogurt and frozen breakfast sandwiches to fortified waffles and breakfast biscuits, manufacturers are encouraging shoppers to once again start their days with a healthy dose of protein.

Protein is also expected to begin playing a greater role in the energy market, says market research firm Mintel—particularly as concerns about the potential dangers of caffeine-based energy drinks rise. Protein is seen as a more natural source that offers consistent energy levels over a sustained period, rather than the rise and crash effects some caffeine-based products can have. Experts predict the few protein-packed shakes, cereals and bars that have hit the market proclaiming their energy benefits so far are just the start of yet another market shift in which protein stands to reign supreme.