Satisfying news for protein
As consumers are faced with conflicting dietary advice, especially where fats and carbohydrates are concerned, protein has emerged as the “feel-good” macronutrient, and now new research from Mintel shows how consumers around the world are turning to it in order to help lose or maintain their weight.
Proving protein is more than just a fad, new research from Mintel looking at four key consumer markets – China, UK, US and Germany – finds a significant number of consumers increasing their protein intake in 2014 compared to the previous year. Indeed, as many as a quarter of consumers in China (26%) and the US (25%) said they were eating more protein than the year before, while a smaller, but still significant proportion of UK (13%) and German (12%) consumers claimed to have upped their protein intake.
High protein claims have continued to increase in food and drink launches over the past five years. The percentage of global food and drink products making a high protein claims increased 17% between 2010 and 2014.
Stephanie Mattucci, Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel, said:
“It seems that protein is the latest unexplored area of a food product’s nutritional statement. Protein is no longer a fad, high protein diets and products have made a real impression on nutrition, re-shaping consumers’ attitudes towards protein in their diet. The desire for more health benefits from food and drink products has led to a boom for products that boast high protein content.”
The research highlights protein as a key ingredient of interest for weight-conscious consumers. Consumers were asked why they had increased their protein intake over the past year. Of the consumers eating more protein, around half of Chinese (51%), UK (47%) and US (46%) consumers said they were doing so to help maintain a healthy weight, followed by 39% of German consumers. Meanwhile, some 47% of Germans, and 42% of UK consumers who had increased their protein consumption, had done so in order to help them lose weight, together with 38% of US consumers and 23% of Chinese consumers. Furthermore, some 43% of US, 34% of Chinese, 31% of UK and 25% of German consumers who were consuming more protein were doing so in order to satisfy their appetite.
“In 2014, much emphasis was placed on the global overweight or obese population, protein has earned a role for promoting weight loss and weight control because of its links to satiety, which helps consumers feel fuller longer. This message is easily understood and resonates very well amongst most consumers. Mainstream high protein products are starting to adopt more sophisticated messaging around protein, typically reserved for traditional high protein supplements. For instance the quality of proteins are being talked about more, with references to the ‘completeness’ of proteins, the presence of essential amino acids, and the digestibility of the protein. Opportunities exist for products to better tailor their high protein message to align with consumers specific needs, such as maintaining muscle mass as they age or assisting with weight loss goals.”
There has been a growing focus on eating proteins in smaller amounts throughout the day, and as a result protein usage has increased in both snacks, cereal and energy bars and spoonable yoghurt categories.
Looking at food and drink product launches with a high protein claim in 2014, the top five sub – categories which are most likely to contain protein are 1. Snack, cereal and energy bars (14%) 2. Meal replacements and other drinks (11%) 3. Spoonable yogurt (9%) 4. Meat snacks (4%) and 5. Meat substitutes (3%).
“As the application and use of protein continues to grow, attention has shifted to when protein is consumed and the type of protein consumers are eating. Research continues to support spreading protein more evenly over a whole day, as it is the pattern of protein intake rather than total daily amount that impacts protein metabolism, positively affecting muscle protein synthesis. This should encourage the inclusion of high protein ingredients into breakfast and snack products to help consumers spread their protein intake throughout the day.”
The focus on protein has seen an emergence of more plant-based proteins. In line with consumers efforts to cut back their red meat intake and adopt a more plant-based diet, the use of, and demand for, non-meat sources of protein continues to grow. Looking globally, this latest research finds as many as 40% of Chinese consumers are eating non-animal sources of protein, this if followed by three in ten (29%) US consumers, a quarter (26%) of German consumers and 18% of British consumers.
Across Europe, consumers are actively reducing or avoiding red meat, during 2014 almost four in ten (38%) Italians claimed they were reducing or avoiding red meat, this was followed by a third (33%) of consumers in France and Germany and three in ten (30%) in Spain. Indeed, comparing the number of consumers across Europe reducing or avoiding their consumption of red meat, against the number of actual vegetarians (5% in Germany, 4% in Spain, 7% in Germany and 8% in Italy) reflects an interest in flexitarian diets and demonstrates how plant-based proteins can contribute to a healthy and sustainable diet.
“Many consumers are shying away from animal-based proteins sources and as a result, various proteins sources are emerging. Foods, such as ancient grains, chia seeds and pulses, are being looked at and utilized for their high protein content."
Insects have also started to appear in various products which have been launched across the globe, however, this latest research finds that there appears to be limited interest in trying insect protein. Indeed, some 79% of German consumers said they have not eaten insect protein and are not interested in trying it, followed by 74% of US consumers and 73% of UK consumers. What is more, only 21% of German, 26% of US consumers and 27% of UK would be interested in trying insect sourced protein. Overall, insect proteins are viewed most favorably in China, where less than half (48%) of consumers said they had not eaten insect protein and were not interested in trying it and over half (52%) said they would be interested in trying it.
And just as Western consumers are the most put off by insect proteins, other novel protein sources face similar challenges. Indeed, some 56% of UK consumers, 54% of US consumers and 42% of German consumers say they have not eaten marine source protein, such as algae, and claim not to be interested in trying it. By contrast in China, only 4% of consumers said they were not interested in marine source protein with as many as 71% of Chinese consumers having already tried marine-sourced proteins.
“Insects are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamins, fibre and minerals. While various insect based products have been launched across the globe, this research shows that novel protein sources will be challenged by Western consumers’ unwillingness to try them”