When it comes to ingredient trends for food and beverages, protein is king. Why? Because consumers understand the connection between protein and health—especially the benefits of protein for weight management and sports nutrition—and are therefore seeking products to meet their nutrition and dietary needs.
Data from Innova Market Insights indicates that in the 12 months ending March, 31, 2014, nearly 3 percent of food and beverage launches were marketed on a “high-protein" or “source-of-protein" positioning, rising to 6 percent in the United States. In terms of revenue, the global protein market is anticipated to reach $24.5 billion in 2015, according to a 2011 report from Pathfinder Research Inc.
Product developers have a host of plant- and animal-based proteins to choose from, which opens the door to increased product development in the functional foods and beverages category. The new “Protein Reigns Supreme" report from FONA International examines why protein is such a hot ingredient in certain applications and provides insight into consumer demographics helping to drive protein’s growth.
So what’s trending? According to FONA, its meal replacement beverages, snack bars and cereal. Did you know 50 percent of protein drink users consume meal replacement beverages to get more energy, and 48 percent do so because they help to curb hunger cravings and provide satiety between meals. When it comes to snack bars, consumers are snacking more than ever due to their fast paced lifestyle and the need to keep up energy throughout the day. What’s more, the snack food category represents the most launches of high-protein foods—in 2014, 19 percent of all high protein foods and drinks launched in the U.S. were snack bars. In the cereal sector, 91 percent of U.S. consumers eat cold cereal and do so about 12 times a week. In fact, more than 80 percent of cereal consumers want a high-protein cereal.
And if protein is king, flavor is queen. Formulators have a variety of protein sources to choose from, but creating a great tasting product requires insight into flavor formulation as consumer preferences. Let’s face it, the chance for repeat sales is slim if a product doesn’t pass the taste test.
According to FONA, the top high-protein drink flavors are vanilla, strawberry, berry, and cookies and cream. Trending unique flavor combos include apple pie; chocolate, caramel and pretzel; dark chocolate, coconut and Greek yogurt; German chocolate, piña colada; s’mores; strawberries and cream; strawberry cheesecake; and sweet chili and almond. The top high-protein food flavors include chocolate, chocolate/peanut butter, strawberry, peanut butter, blueberry vanilla, and cookies and cream.