‘The familiarity factor’: Consumers want recognisable protein sources

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Milk remains the most popular source of protein according to a new consumer survey ©iStock/nathaphat
Milk remains the most popular source of protein according to a new consumer survey ©iStock/nathaphat
As consumer interest in protein continues to grow food makers are working to differentiate themselves based on protein source. But, new research suggests, consumers are most accepting of proteins that are recognisable and familiar.

Over the past decade, products claiming to be high in protein have attracted increased attention and benefited from something of a ‘health halo’ among consumers.

The global protein ingredients market is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% over the next seven years. Forecasters at Grand View Research predicted that this sector will be worth around €41.5bn by 2025.

Protein trend ‘has longevity’

Consumer interest in protein is here to stay, according to Mike Hughes, director of insights at FMCG Gurus.

“Consumer interest in protein sources is continuing to grow, and this is something that will only continue. Unlike many other health fads, the interest in protein is one that has longevity due to high awareness of the ingredient, it being found in everyday food and drink and it having appeal among males and females,”​ Hughes said.

FMCG Guru recently completed a survey taking in consumer attitudes to protein sources across ten different countries. The insights provider attributed protein’s success to its “universal appeal”​ due to its “association with strength”​.

“The reality is that many consumers feel that they do not have enough protein in their diet – despite many not actually monitoring how much protein they intake daily. This is driving demand for high protein products, both with the aim of improving long-term health and addressing day-to-day issues such as waistlines and energy levels,”​ Hughes noted.

Consumers seek familiarity

Data from Grand View Research reveals that animal-based protein accounted for 72.3% of the global protein ingredients market.

Alternative proteins, including - but not limited to - plant-based options have received a considerable amount of hype. However, animal-derived products are currently the largest global source of protein ingredients. This reflects consumer demand for products derived from familiar protein sources, the findings of the FMCG Gurus survey suggest.

The FMCG Gurus survey gauged the opinion of more than 10,000 consumers in the UK, Sweden, Spain, the US, Italy, Germany, France, Nigeria, China and Brazil. It concluded that milk, egg and soy are the three most popular protein sources, preferred by 59%, 54% and 52% of consumers respectively. Hemp was the “least appealing”​ protein source, appealing to just 34% of those polled.

“The familiarity factor is a major reason. Consumers recognise they can easily incorporate these food items into everyday diets and do not have to pay a premium for a product positioned as a 'magic bullet' health solution. They also associate these types of foods with being “good for you” so protein is simply an additional benefit along with ingredients such as calcium,”​ Hughes told FoodNavigator.

Future fragmentation

Despite the conservative approach expressed by consumers in FMCG Gurus survey, Hughes does expect diversification in the protein ingredients sector.

“As consumer interest in protein sources continues to grow, the protein market will become more fragmented, with brands looking to differentiate themselves based on the types of protein sources they use,”​ he predicted.

In particular, Hughes believes that ingredients that were once the preserve of sports nutrition will make their way into everyday grocery items. “Ingredient sources once more likely to be found in specialised sports nutrition products will become increasingly common in the everyday grocery market as consumers seek out better-for-you food, snacks and beverages. This will create the opportunity for brands to promote in more detail the sources of protein in formulation and the related benefits.”

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