Steaks to Shakes: Protein on Shopping Lists

Originally Published: November 19, 2015
Last Updated: March 2, 2021
Steak to Shakes: Protein on the Shopping List. Pulses or legumes are popular alternatives to meat protein.

November 11, 2015—Protein is on consumers’ shopping lists for many reasons—wellness, strength, energy and satiety among them—but what’s become equally diverse in recent years is where those shoppers find it. In her presentation, “Steaks to Shakes: Protein on Shopping Lists,” Linda Gilbert, EcoFocus Worldwide founder and CEO, noted that 25% of U.S. consumers say they’ve been eating more protein in the past year, according to Mintel data.

Sectors like beverages, snacks and supplements are capitalizing on this growth. “Consumers today are diversifying their choices and shopping beyond the meat case to find protein,” Gilbert said.

According to Acosta, the most popular alternatives to meat protein among consumers today are nuts (64%), beans/lentils (63%), dairy/eggs (56%), grains like rice/pasta/quinoa (50%) and shakes/bars (21%). Weight management is the chief reason for this rise in protein demand (46% of Mintel respondents), with low-fat, low-carb and sugar-free diets losing popularity. Gilbert credits the rise of the Paleo diet, along with gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and allergen-free diets, as additional driving factors.

Interest among Millennials doesn’t hurt, either, with 42% saying it’s important to get more protein in their diet (NPD Group), and 60% believing they can achieve the necessary daily protein amount without meat (Acosta). More than 31% of shoppers say they bought meat alternatives, such as tofu and texturized vegetable protein, over the past year, but Millennials led the charge at more than 50%. Two notable product examples of this are Lightlife’s Smart Patties, quinoa burgers with 10g of protein; and Quorn, a frozen food line made of fermented fungi.

Gilbert noted the snack aisle is getting significant attention for its protein products, too. Additionally, nearly all of the examples she mentioned carried non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free and/or organic claims, as well.

Protein product claims are up 54% in the past five years, according to Mintel. In the beverage category, IRI reports 91 examples in the dairy aisle (dairy and dairy alternative products) claiming to have “more protein” (36 in number); “high protein” (21); or proclaiming a “good source of protein” (34). By contrast, they found just seven juice products with protein claims. Hood Simply Smart and Farmland Dairies Skim Plus promise more protein (25 and 37%, respectively) and are on protein beverage shopping lists most often, according to IRI (52 weeks ending 3-22-15). They likewise boast features like more calcium, no fat and an eco-friendly container, said Gilbert.

TruMoo Protein Plus is another volume leader in this category, with 25g of protein and no HFCS. New Zealand’s new a2 Milk, just now being launched into the U.S. market, interestingly promises only a2 beta-casein and not a1 beta-casein, which is associated with milk intolerance, according to the company. Califia Farms’ Pure Almondmilk is dairy-, soy- and carrageenan-free, with 6g of pea and brown rice protein. Suja’s Organic Sunset Protein, available exclusively at Target, has 10g of vegan protein with pea protein concentrate, almonds and hemp protein powder.

When looking for protein in juice, IRI says the most popular choices are Sambazon Protein, a vegan  superfood smoothie with 8g of protein; and Silk Fruit & Protein, which is non-GMO certified and has 5g of protein (52 Weeks Ending 3-22-15). Dannon and V8 have both added protein shake varieties, promising 12g of protein and high fiber. Stonyfield Farms’ Orgain line proclaims the “first-ever USDA Organic high-protein shake with 25g of protein from organic grass-fed milk concentrate and organic whey concentrate,” Gilbert added.

Almost 50% of shoppers that use protein shakes and/or bars use them as meal replacements at least one-two times per week, Gilbert mentioned. Millennials do so most often.

Gilbert concluded her presentation with the question: “Can protein [also] make us beautiful?” She noted collagen supplements are now on the U.S. market, and in Japan, gummy candy from Meiji contains at least 2,400mg of collagen for skin beauty. Suntory has introduced a collagen-infused beer to Japan that promises to make the drinker more beautiful.

Linda Gilbert, Founder and CEO, EcoFocus Worldwide, and Founder of HealthFocus,, +1.727.906.3319,

The summary above is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technology Magazine: Formulating with Proteins.”