Consumer Demand Spurs Protein Product Innovation

Originally Published: June 1, 2018
Last Updated: November 29, 2021
Consumer Demand Spurs Protein Product Innovation

CONSUMER DEMAND spurs protein product innovation as research reveals that consumers continue to seek foods that provide a good source of protein, whether that protein comes from a traditional source or new, innovative products. “Consumers are interested in protein, but they also understand they can get it from a lot of foods,” said Lynn Dornblaser, Director, Innovation & Insight, Mintel, in the opening presentation “Trends & Takeaways in the [Still] Hot Protein Marketplace.”

Although a growing number of products talk about having a good source of protein, being high in protein and/or or having added protein, what often happens is that consumers simply look at the grams of protein per serving on the nutrition label. Protein claims most often appear in categories where they are not expected. Consumers are conflicted. They want animal-based protein, and they want plant-based protein. According to Mintel research, the top three reasons consumers eat plant-based protein are because of taste, health concerns and to avoid processed foods. Some 70% say plant- based protein is healthy, and 53% say plant-based foods are better for the environment than animal-based options. However, 57% also say that plant-based foods are more expensive than other foods. On the other hand, 67% say meat is essential to a balanced diet. Men are more likely than women to agree. However, only 51% say a meal is not complete without meat.

In the U.S., the top six categories of new product introductions that make the most protein claims are “snacks,” “dairy,” “fish, meat and egg products,” “meals and meal centers,” as well as the miscellaneous categories of “other beverages” and “other.” Delving further into individual subcategories, Mintel finds that only five subcategories account for more than 50% of all new product introductions. They are “snack/cereal/ energy bars,” “spoonable yogurt,” “prepared meals,” “meal replacements & other drinks” and “meat snacks.”

Growth in the meat substitutes category has spurred new product introductions, new company partnerships and much innovation. For instance, the producer of Beyond Meat® plant-based burgers, made with 20g of protein, has a partner— Tyson Foods. This is just one of a number of animal-based protein companies joining with a plant-based protein company, said Dornblaser. “This illustrates how companies that make and process animal protein under-stand the importance of plant protein in the marketplace,” she added.

What is on the horizon for new products with protein claims? Dornblaser offered several predictions. For one, there will be more foods made with plant-based protein, particularly new sources of ingredients. Also, more beverages made with egg protein will be introduced, especially if they’re made from eggs that don’t make it to the store because of size or shell discoloration.

Additionally, cellular agriculture is already in the development stage at some companies. “In Europe and North America, developments that engineer, rather than harvest, food and drink staples, such as laboratory-grown meat and animal-free dairy have grabbed headlines. But the resulting products are often expensive, and some are still years away from widespread commercial avail-ability,” said Dornblaser.

“We [hear] lots of talk in the industry about insect protein, but for the U.S. market, it would surprise me if we see much beyond niche companies making products with insect protein,” said Dornblaser. “Think about it; we can’t get U.S. consumers to eat dark meat chicken, how can we get them to eat insects, even if its cricket flour, without visible particulates reminding them of bugs? We’ll see what happens, but clearly for other parts of the world, eating insects and insect parts isn’t that big of a deal,” she added.

While new foods made with plant proteins and meat and dairy substitutes continue entering the market, U.S. customers shouldn’t expect to see lab-grown meat or insect protein at significant levels in the marketplace anytime soon.

“Trends & Takeaways in the [Still] Hot Protein Marketplace,” Lynn Dornblaser, Director, Innovation & Insight, Mintel,

This presentation was given at the 2018 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar — Technical Program: Formulating with Proteins

Click here to access the PowerPoint presentation Protein Trends by Lynn Dornblaser, Director, Innovation & Insight

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