Snackification trend drives innovative opportunities for protein

As consumers become more aware of the nutritional values of everyday food and drink, active nutrition has been turned on its head, notes Louise Mahrra, Digital Marketing Communications Specialist

With the protein market currently being transformed by trends such as snackification, deskfasting and ‘permission to indulge,’ the very definition of ‘active nutrition’ has been turned on its head as consumers become increasingly more aware of the nutritional values of everyday food and drink.

Strengthened by the adventurous eating habits of the millennial generation, protein’s phenomenal rise in popularity has led to a proliferation of protein-fortified products on the market. Indulgence has never been more accessible — or acceptable — thanks to protein-rich ice cream, gummy sweets and now, even pronuts, a new wave of protein donuts to make those indulgent pleasures feel slightly less guilty!

A bringer of satiety and builder of strength, protein is a key ingredient in new product development for many brands. As consumers begin to appreciate the many benefits of a protein-enriched diet combined with a healthy active lifestyle, they’re demanding more choice, great taste and availability.

Leading the way in the protein revolution is Wheyhey, the world’s first protein ice-cream that packs a a massive 20 g of protein per serving. Exploding onto the scene in 2013, the brand has proven to be ahead of the curve in innovation, accessibility and inspiring product development. Addressing the needs of consumers wanting a healthy, indulgent snack or treat, the brand has revolutionised the market, seamlessly crossing the boundary between sports nutrition and mainstream with a great tasting, low sugar alternative that appeals to everyone.

In a digital age when product and brand marketing are becoming secondary to user-generated content, Wheyhey has gained prominence as a brand that excels at bringing their customers’ experiences to the fore. The result is a brand that enables direct relationships with consumers to show the people behind the products and create real-time, reactive participation in their brand story.

Second to water, protein is the most abundant component of the human body

Damien Kennedy, one of the founders of Wheyhey shares his thoughts on the future opportunities and challenges for the industry, and how it can keep up with consumer demand for healthy, convenient and great tasting protein products. Living a healthier, more active lifestyle is a big influencer for many consumers today. So, when asked what he thinks the future will look like for mainstream protein consumption, he responded: 'The stigma surrounding protein as ‘only for body builders’ is fading very quickly. When we first started Wheyhey Ice Cream, there was a mainstream misunderstanding when it came to protein. People often associated a protein product with the body building world, which is completely incorrect and we have worked hard to change that misconception.'

'However, this negative association has massively decreased in recent years as living a healthy active lifestyle is now considered by many to be the norm. Second to water, protein is the most abundant component of the human body. Consumers are increasingly concerned with what they are putting into their bodies, which is fantastic news for us. With more consumers exercising regularly and recognising the benefits of protein to maintain healthy muscles and bones, the demand for protein-based products is only going to surge,' he added.

The protein market is constantly evolving to keep up with consumer demand for taste, convenience and function, but Damien is confident that Wheyhey has some exciting developments for 2016 and beyond. He noted: “We have some really innovative and fun concepts that we are working hard on, keep an eye out in the run up to summer 2016!'

Retailers, ingredients manufacturers and branded businesses all need to play a role in addressing both the health issues faced today and the widespread confusion caused by ongoing negative media coverage of what we can and can’t eat. Damien is abundantly clear on whether enough is being done to promote the many health benefits of protein across the industry. 'Absolutely not! Mainstream media is an absolute disgrace, demonising each macronutrient in a cyclical manner to create shocking headline stories, leaving the public confused and completely unaware of what a truly nutritious diet consists of,' he states, adding: 'Having said that, it is obvious that the public have become fatigued by these sweeping media stories. This is hugely beneficial to an honest and educated company like ours as the consumer is now actively seeking their own answers, to which we have them all!'

Having recently seen Arla Foods Ingredients’ timely response to the opportunities created by the ‘snackification’ trend with the launch of a high-protein Snack Cake solution aimed at bakery companies, Damien commented on whether more innovative ingredient solutions are needed by the industry to continue to meet the consumer demand for protein-fortification. 'There is certainly enough innovation happening in the consumer category. The real issue is getting these products on the shelves. The UK is leagues behind the US and other pioneering regions such as Scandinavia and Germany in its accessibility of protein-fortified offerings; however this will change as more and more protein-fortified products prove their sell through velocity,' he said.

The range and availability of protein-fortified products on the market today is testament to the increasing demand from consumers for healthy protein-enriched foods and drinks, and the shift in diet, lifestyle and eating habits of today's health-conscious consumers. In response to overwhelmingly conflicting dietary advice including that surrounding fats and carbohydrates, and continuing ‘war on sugar,’ protein is taking centre stage as the only macronutrient not to be vilified in the media. Watch this space in 2016 as the evolution of everyday protein products continues to astound and thrill us.

Companies