Proteins Are The New Black

Kantha ShelkeWhat promises youthful aging, appearance, strength and health? Proteins. In this edition of PLMALive!Dr. Kantha Shelke explains.

Proteins Are The New Black

There’s a halo hanging around all things protein these days. Never before has an ingredient trumped all other ingredients and caused products to fly off the shelf.

Consumers have discovered that protein makes you full faster, and feeling is believing. Protein is the new BLACK! It is to diets what black is to fashion. People believe it can help in weight reduction and keep the pounds off.  Proteins also promise youthful aging, appearance, strength, and health   and sales of protein-related products are booming in all categories of foods including confectionery. While that’s good for the protein supply business, manufacturers are baffled because proteins are sought for varying reasons and needs. It is challenging to decipher the resonating food, and the amount and kind of protein best suited for a particular product.

The food industry has already witnessed the power of protein. The meteoric rise of Greek yogurt is attributed not just to its rich taste, but also to its greater protein content. Some brands contain upwards of 14 grams of protein per serving, where regular yogurts might have less than half of that.

Growing demand and acceptance have generated various sources of protein. Each source, and each form of protein even within a particular source, has unique taste attributes, properties, benefits and challenges. For example, Casein and whey, both from milk, could not be more different in their texture, taste, and usage. Proteins suitable for beverages do not always shine in bakery products or other solid foods.  Proteins fit for a millennial will just not do for an active senior. This uniqueness can be a boon considering the tremendous growth predicted for protein foods in coming years.

Dairy-based proteins are favored for nutrition, versatility, and taste. Next in popularity is egg protein. And though it’s entrenched in many staple foods, egg protein is being replaced systematically due to worldwide shortages and allergy issues. Gelatin, a protein extracted from collagen, is popular in confectionary and now in cosmetics, personal care, joint care, and in bone broths.

Animal proteins are primarily used in sports and fitness nutrition products, baby formula, and geriatric nutrition, all of which are in turn influenced by lifestyle and demographic shifts. Whey, the front runner for decades is followed closely today by soy proteins with non-soy allergy-free plant proteins from pea, potato, canola, rice and chia gaining ground on both. The emerging proteins require skill to mask or complement their grassy and beany notes that can be off-putting.

Plant proteins may be as much as 30-50% cheaper than animal proteins. Yet, reformulation with plant proteins can be expensive. Marketing is critical, but can be daunting for these new ingredients to reach top-of-mind recall with consumers. Collaborating with other manufacturers using the ingredient can help propel awareness and growth. Notice how quickly quinoa, chia, and chickpeas have risen to become worldwide consumer favorites.

Food technology is advancing a number of new proteins …from top-of-the-chart appealing sources such as almonds, amaranth, cashews, rice, and potato, and also from unlikely sources such as algae, fungi, and even insects.

One thing is clear: the future never looked brighter for the protein business.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.