The Rise of Protein in Global Health and Wellness

Originally Published: January 13, 2015
Last Updated: March 3, 2021
Protein supplement sales are driving the sports nutrition category growth.

January 13, 2015 – The future landscape of protein will hinge on segmentation and education, according to market research by Euromonitor International, and success will depend on how well companies know their customers and inform them of product benefits. As far as age is concerned, Euromonitor has found that the rise of protein in global health and wellness has the highest appeal among Millennial consumers, likely due to the fitness and brand-consciousness trends.

“We’re also noticing a protein concern life-cycle,” said Chris Schmidt, Consumer Health Analyst at Euromonitor International. It peaks with younger consumers; ebbs some in the family- raising stage; and again, grows slightly as consumers age and become more concerned with bone health and muscle-maintenance issues.”

There are differences along gender lines, as well. Men look to protein for muscle mass, bone health and exercise recovery, while women look for lean muscle maintenance, skin/hair health, bone health and satiety. Aging is an area to potentially capitalize on, Schmidt added, since proteins have benefits with heart health, maintaining muscle/bone health and skin/nail/hair maintenance. This is especially important as the 50+ population quickly expands into the year 2030, in part due to the Baby Boomers.

Another potential opportunity is in the endurance and natural energy interest groups, since energy drink demand is climbing, but caffeine is attracting scrutiny. Within the USD 206 billion consumer health industry, protein plays a major role in three categories: protein supplements (which are not sports-focused, tracked in Euromonitor’s vitamins and dietary supplements category); protein products (specifically positioned for sports and tracked in the sports nutrition category); and the meal replacement/slimming category (where protein is a key ingredient, but not necessarily all products in the category).

In the sports nutrition category, protein products take about USD 7 billion of that USD 9 billion category. Powders account for the vast majority, but bars and RTDs (Ready-to- Drink) are on the rise and will be major players in coming years, along with protein supplements. Previously thought to have unhealthy ingredients or bad taste, these convenience items have gone through image overhauls, borrowing trends from premium confectionary brands to find fast-growing success and new competition from general wellness brands.

While protein has a healthy positioning in most markets, “Contains protein” is a claim that tends to trail other nutrient claims, such as “Contains added vitamins and fiber,” Schmidt continued.

One Euromonitor global survey asked, “Which of the following factors or ingredients do you look for on food labels and food ingredient labels?” The 16,327 respondents were allowed to select multiple choices among the options listed. Results showed that protein tracks better with consumers in emerging markets. Between 20-25% of Chinese, Brazilian, Indian and Russian consumers said they looked for protein on food labels.

However, less than 10% of consumers in Germany, U.S., France, UK and Japan said so. In general, this demonstrates the need for companies to better communicate the benefits of protein to consumers. This also reflects the fact that developed countries tend to have higher dietary protein intakes, advised Schmidt.

“The Rise of Protein in the Global Health and Wellness, and Supplement Arenas,” Chris Schmidt, Consumer Health Analyst, Euromonitor International

The summary above is from the “2014 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar: Business Magazine”