Protein remains a powerful force in food and beverage innovation

KANSAS CITY — The protein trend is white hot and shows no sign of cooling any time soon. Consumer interest in the nutrient is driving innovation and leading to a plethora of products featuring protein claims.

“Protein has been a growth engine throughout the grocery store,” said Chris DuBois, senior vice-president of strategic accounts for Information Resources, Inc., Chicago. “Products with protein claims are growing at 9% per year, three times faster than total U.S. grocery.”

From a sales growth perspective, bakery products featuring a protein claim have seen sales rise 17% compared to a year ago, according to I.R.I. Other categories where products highlighting a protein claim have seen double-digit sales growth include cookies and crackers (14%), frozen meals (13%), frozen meat (13%), refrigerated meals (13%) and snacks (11%).

“It’s not just protein,” Mr. DuBois said. “We are seeing an evolution. The protein story has had a nice run, but now we are seeing it (protein) performing well with other attributes.”

Food and beverage products containing protein and probiotics have seen sales growth of 59% compared to a year ago, according to I.R.I. Other combinations of claims seeing significant sales growth include protein and no antibiotics (41%), protein and whole grains (27%), and protein and G.M.O.-free (21%).

“It’s not just protein. We are seeing an evolution. The protein story has had a nice run, but now we are seeing it (protein) performing well with other attributes.” — Chris DuBois, I.R.I.

“Those are big numbers,” Mr. DuBois said. “They are numbers anybody can be happy about.”

Propelling the trend is consumer interest in adopting a flexitarian diet.

“People are looking for meat substitutes,” Mr. DuBois said. “They want the protein benefit in a non-meat format. That’s why we are seeing a lot of companies innovating in that space.”

Meat substitutes have been available for decades, but Mr. DuBois said the innovation that has gone into making better plant-based meat substitutes has been substantial.

“We (I.R.I.) did a lot of work over the years about what is going on, and we are seeing a greater sophistication of brands, flavor profiles and forms being brought to market,” he said. “The older (plant-based) substitutes were a lot more utilitarian in taste and texture.”

For anyone wondering how long consumer interest in meat substitutes will last, Mr. DuBois recommended they visit the dining hall of a nearby college.

“It’s shocking to see how prevalent these options are,” he said. “College food service operators have been catering to students who don’t eat meat for a while.

“The younger generation is much more trained to be looking for plant-based options. The trend is not going to go away. Millennials and Gen Z have seen it all the time and are much more accustomed to having plant-based options.”

Original article sourced from https://www.foodbusinessnews.net

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