Lindsey Ormond, business development manager for health and performance nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients, reveals the secrets to success in the growing protein market.
The phenomenal growth in the market for high-protein food and beverage products has seen many companies enter the category in a bid to grab a piece of the action. It's a wise move commercially: there's no sign of sales slowing down and there is the firm belief that this is a trend that's here to stay for the long term. Nevertheless, to maximise your chances of success, it's really important to address a number of considerations before you dive in.
First, it would be a mistake to consider the protein market as a single category. Instead, it's a series of sub-categories, each with its own specific attributes. In addition, not all proteins are the same. There is now a vast array of options in terms of protein sources, and it's important not to fall into the trap of believing all proteins are equal. In fact, proteins can vary enormously in terms of factors such as nutritional quality, taste and ease of processing.
Arla Foods Ingredients specialises in supplying whey proteins, which are naturally found in cows' milk. Quite simply, this is because there is no other type of protein on the market that offers such a wide range of benefits. It contains all of the essential amino acids (the ones the body needs, but can't produce), is rich in the important branched-chain amino acids, and can be used across a huge range of food and beverage products.
But the company doesn't just supply whey protein. The R&D team has fractionated whey - broken it up, essentially - to tap into the many benefits this extraordinary ingredient offers. In doing this, it has been able to create a wide range of proteins to provide health benefits in different applications. Yes, you can buy a standard commodity whey protein. But can you be sure that it's going to give you the properties you really need for your product?
Whey for sports nutrition
The key to selecting the right whey protein is to know which category you want to target and what type of product you want to create. Sports nutrition is where the protein trend began and this continues to be a very important market. However, as a category, it has become more sophisticated. It's no longer just about building muscle. In particular, recovery has become a valued benefit for the millions of people who now run, cycle or swim regularly - or do all three in triathlons.
For those athletes who really push themselves, and train hard every day, Arla Foods Ingredients offers Lacprodan® HYDRO.365, a gold-standard whey protein hydrolysate that reduces recovery time from days to hours. HYDRO.365 is more easily absorbed than intact whey proteins, and promotes much faster recovery after a workout. It can be used in a wide range of applications, including clear beverages, gels, bars, powders and tablets. This is important, because not every athlete likes to consume sports nutrition in the same way.
Whey for lifestyle nutrition
One may prefer instead to target the booming lifestyle nutrition market. The key to tapping into this opportunity is to offer consumers lifestyle protein-based products that are delicious and easy to consume.
A great option is the Lacprodan® DI-7017 ingredient, a 100% whey protein concentrate that is UHT-stable and offers neutral pH and good taste. These attributes make it especially attractive to manufacturers wishing to develop long-shelf-life products designed for weight management and/or the increase of muscle mass - both of which are benefits consumers are seeking.
Whey for women
A real sweet spot in lifestyle nutrition right now is products aimed at women, who tend to be more health-conscious than men and also make the majority of purchasing decisions. This makes them a really worthwhile target group.
But it's not as easy as simply creating a high-protein product and expecting women to buy it. You need to get the product right. Don't be lulled into thinking that it's enough just to 'pink it and shrink it'. Modern female consumers are smarter than that. It's not only their hearts you need to win; it's their minds too.
While many women have already been won over by the nutritional benefits of protein, plenty of them still have misconceptions about the effect it will have on their bodies. Some women mistakenly believe that eating and drinking high-protein products could make them fat or develop excessive muscle mass. Consequently, they avoid high-protein products because they perceive them to be high in calories, or associate them with body builders and fear they will acquire an unfeminine body shape.
This means it's important to create products that are far removed from the 'macho' image of protein fostered by products aimed at male consumers, including body builders. Instead, protein products aimed at women should speak to the specific health and nutrition concerns of women, which include toning, bone health and skin health.
Taste is really important, too, because female consumers will be deterred if they do not like the flavour and texture of a product. Protein waters are likely to resonate with women, because they are light, refreshing and low calorie, while providing the goodness of whey protein. Manufacturers can create crystal-clear low-calorie protein drinks with Arla Foods Ingredients' Lacprodan® DI-9213, offering female consumers a guilt-free and great-tasting soft drink.
Whey for seniors
Another major area for protein is the market for seniors. Populations worldwide are aging as people live longer. As a result, people want to enjoy their new-found longevity by looking after their well-being. Protein addresses the muscle wastage associated with aging - also known as sarcopenia. Whey protein is an excellent ingredient to combat this condition, as it is renowned for its superior essential amino acid profile, including the muscle-enhancing branched-chain amino acid leucine.
Cognitive performance is also a priority for older consumers. Slowing the inevitable cognitive decline and maintaining cognitive function for longer are highly sought-after benefits for the older age group. In this field, Arla Foods Ingredients offers Lacprodan® PL-20. This ingredient is a natural source of bioactive milk phospholipids, which enhance mental performance. PL-20 has a pleasant taste and can be used in applications such as milky beverages, yoghurts, bars and desserts. It may also be UHT-treated.
The diversity of opportunities in the protein market reflects one of the key trends in nutrition today: personalisation. Modern consumers want products that meet their specific needs. To be blunt, the one-size-fits-all approach is now obsolete. This increased focus on individualisation means much more NPD work is now focused on developing ingredients that offer targeted solutions.
The extraordinary thing about whey protein is that it is a high-quality and natural ingredient so rich in possibilities that it offers endless opportunities to create the personalised solutions that consumers are demanding. Arla Foods Ingredients is committed to helping customers tap into these possibilities.