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Protein Demand

Protein Foods Protein Foods

Whether animal or plant, consumers’ appetite for protein is driving innovative formulations.

A 2015 Market Update from Batory Nutra (Des Plaines, IL) reported that in 2015 and beyond, natural product formulators understand that a consumer’s appetite for protein doesn’t stop at the supplement store, and two thirds of people say they aim to consume moderate or high amounts of protein, according to Datamonitor.

The Institute of Food’s technologists found that in 2012, 40 percent of the best-selling, new, better-for-you foods and beverages carried a high-protein claim. In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, Nielsen research found that U.S. sales of packaged foods with protein-related claims on their labels rose to $7.5 billion in 2014, over 50 percent more compared to the same period four years earlier.

According to Hartley Pond, senior vice president of technical sales for Illinois-based FutureCeuticals, protein is the primary ingredient in functional foods today … from meal replacements to green drink mixes, from sports nutrition to weight loss formulations. “Proteins have become the centerpiece for many formulations,” he said, “and consumers are making purchasing decisions based on the amount and the type of protein contained in a product.”

Gil Bakal, managing director for New Jersey-based A&B Ingredients reported that protein-based products reach three distinct market segments: professional sports individuals, active people concerned about their lifestyle and mass market/health conscious. “The professional sports people know very well their needs and how to match them with the right protein or even protein mix. They analyze in detail the amino acid profiles of different proteins and a trainer or even a doctor often advises them. The ‘active lifestyle’ group knows the advantages of protein for their muscle health and/or their protein diet, but they are not as focused on the details. And finally, the general consumer understands that proteins are good for their general health, but don’t consume them consciously,” although they do pay attention to product claims and are in favor of overall healthier products.

Animal or Vegetable

“The first choice food manufacturers need to make is whether to use animal (e.g. whey protein and caseinate, or other) or vegetable protein (e.g. rice, oat, soy and/or pea protein),” Bakal said. “Make no mistake, however: protein devotees are not necessarily consuming more meat,” according to Batory Nutra. In fact, Datamonitor found that 41 percent of people globally eat a low-meat diet, while 13 percent eat meat-free. Further, Mintel’s research reveals that demand for high-protein products is also coming from consumers who are avoiding animal sources of protein for either health, environmental or ethical reasons. Products launched in the U.S. with both a high protein and vegan claim have shown a steady increase since 2008, posting 54 percent growth in the past five years (to 2012).

One does not need to eat animal products to get all the protein they need in their diet. Vegetarians are able to get enough essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant proteins. Therefore, meat is no longer the “be-all, end-all.” “We believe the next protein trend will be focused on whole-food proteins from vegetables and legumes, which are naturally rich in protein and deliver intact levels of micro and macronutrients,” Pond said.

Brown rice, hemp and pea proteins have become very popular in the last decade, he continued. In addition, protein-enhancements have led to even newer ingredients, including pulses (not pea), chia, hemp, algal and insects. In fact, for the Global Food Forums, Inc.’s first Protein Trends & Technologies R&D Survey, protein-knowledgeable food technologists were asked “Do you see the use of the following protein types (as a powdered ingredient within formulated products) as decreasing, increasing or remaining the same in the U.S. in the next two years?” The 78 respondents were given a list of 17 ingredients to choose from. The results showed that pea protein was identified by 89 percent of participants to increase in the next two years. Pulses (not pea), chia, hemp, rice and algal proteins followed with 80, 74, 69, 67 and 58 percent of respondents saying they would increase in use. However, the survey also showed that 36 percent and 35 percent of the protein-knowledgeable food technologists predicted an increase in the use for proteins from soy that is most known and trending, and insects, which is said to be a highly sustainable source of protein.

With these results and similar studies, suppliers see a growing market and are jumping at the opportunity. Spotting the shift in the consumer mindset to whole foods, FutureCeuticals responded by creating the company’s Terasante line of organic whole food plant proteins. “We standardize these blends guaranteed at a minimum 20 percent plant protein in the whole food matrix, so obviously the intent is to not compete directly with mega-dose extracts,” Pond stated. For the high-dose extracts, instead of trying to out run them, FutureCeuticals introduced QuinoaTrim and AncienTrim to dramatically improve the flavor and texture of high-dose brown rice and pea protein formulas.

For Batory Nutra, finding the right protein source is just the start; its proteins offer the market a world of flavor and application variety. “We offer top-of-line protein sources like soy, dairy and albumin, as well as choices like fava bean, pea, wheat, ancient grains and lentil. Hemp and rice will arrive later this year,” the company announced. In addition, “consider the vegan market, once limited to soy, soy and more soy.”

A&B Ingredients noted the health benefits its protein products provide to consumers. “Proteins can be effective for people suffering from sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength) or osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) … Our Pisane pea protein contains three important amino acids for this specific target group,” Bakal said. Pisane is rich in leucine, which is essential for bone health, as well as lysine and arginine, two amino acids important for muscle synthesis, he continued.

According to Loretta Martin, associate director of research and development for Idaho-based Glanbia Nutritionals Ingredient Technologies, another target group for plant-based proteins are those who suffer from food allergies. “Consumers that need to avoid soy or dairy allergens seek vegetable sources such as pea or rice proteins,” she said.

Beefing Up

A benefit of animal-based proteins is that they are much more similar to human proteins. New York-based T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies found that “substrate” amino acids derived from animal based proteins are more readily available for our own protein synthesizing reactions, which allows them to operate at full tilt. Plant proteins are somewhat compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids.

Amanda Brown, sales representative for Nebraska-based American Laboratories Inc., said that beef protein is becoming more widely used because of the digestible protein content in the material, as well as being a material with no associated–allergens. “Knowing a material does not have allergens associated with it allows it to be marketed to a larger group of people,” she explained. She said she sees the market for animal-based proteins coming back because of the high protein percentage in the material. “Humans have been eating meat as a source of protein for thousands of years. This is still the main source of protein in an average diet,” she said.

Beef protein is also soluble in water, so it is great for protein shakes and bars, Brown added. The flavor can be easily masked to cover the neutral “beef” taste. “Beef protein is a great addition to these products due to its mild flavor profile, its highly soluble protein content and because it is how people have been getting their protein for years.”

In conclusion, Pond noted that consumers are focusing on both the protein content and the form of protein as primary criteria for determining to purchase one product over another. “This is driving formulators to provide a wide range of options from the convenience of great tasting ready to drink beverages to elite sports nutrition products to the health food and organic market sector,” Pond added. “The protein market is vast and evolving and consumer demand is driving innovative new formulations at a rapid pace.” NIE

For More Information:
American Laboratories Inc., (402) 339-2494
A&B Ingredients, (973) 227-1390
Batory Nutra, (800) 451-9067
FutureCeuticals, (815) 507-1400
Glanbia Nutritionals Ingredient Technologies, (800) 735-8137