Protein To Remain On Trend In 2018

January 16th, 2018


Category: Miscellaneous

(Food Business News) –  As the calendar has turned to 2018, the incorporation of protein into food and beverage formulations remains a leading product trend. What stands out is the growing number of protein-centric ingredients consumers are willing to embrace in product formulations.

Recent new product introductions highlight the range of protein-based ingredients being used in formulations. In December, for example, Beyond Meat, El Segundo, Calif., introduced Beyond Sausage, a plant-based alternative that looks and cooks like pork sausage in original bratwurst, hot Italian and sweet Italian varieties. The company is marketing the product as featuring more protein and less fat than meat-based pork sausages. The Beyond Sausage line features pea, fava bean and rice protein with trace amounts of beet for color, coconut oil for juiciness and an algae-based casing.

Ripple Foods, Emeryville, Calif., has entered the yogurt aisle with its new Ripple Greek Yogurt Alternative, which features 12 grams of plant-based protein per serving, according to the company. Made with pea protein, sunflower oil, organic cane sugar and live active cultures, the yogurt alternatives are vegan, lactose-free, nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free and G.M.O.-free. Varieties include original, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry and maple.
Hampton Creek, San Francisco, has introduced Just Scramble, an egg alternative made from mung bean protein isolate. Just Scramble tastes like egg, the company said, and its ingredients require less water and generate fewer carbon emissions than conventional eggs. The product contains 20% more protein than a chicken egg with zero cholesterol, Hampton Creek said.

As some consumers shift to plant-based products, food manufacturers see additional opportunities to market alternatives to products traditionally formulated with animal-sourced proteins. In fact, growth of the market for alternatives to product formulated with animal-based protein was a key trend for 2018 identified by Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.

The retailer noted that “bleeding” vegan burgers and sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes are a part of an emerging crop of plant-based products that are designed to appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. Ingredients such as pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts, pecans and avocado have been used as replacement for dairy in new yogurt, ice cream and milk products.

During the past few years there has been an intense focus on the emergence of plant-based proteins used in product development. While plant-based ingredients are on-trend, it should not be construed that products formulated with the ingredients are taking share away from animal-sourced proteins.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service published in December forecasts that the per capita disappearance at retail of beef, chicken and pork are all expected to rise compared to previous years. Beef, for example, is forecast to rise to 59.1 lbs in 2018 from 57 lbs in 2017. Pork is forecast to rise to 52.1 lbs in 2018 from 50 lbs in 2017, and chicken will rise to 91.9 lbs in 2018 from 90.9 lbs per capita in 2017.

While anecdotal, the experience of McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., underscores consumer demand for meat protein. This past September, the company added buttermilk chicken tenders to its menu. The menu item features white meat chicken that is battered, lightly seasoned and breaded. In late November, McDonald’s management acknowledged that its supply could not meet demand for the new product, and it was removed from menus until the supply situation could be addressed. The tenders were added back to McDonald’s menu in late December.

Consumer perception of proteins

A question for product developers is how far are consumers willing to go in experimenting with new types of protein? Insights from the market research company GlobalData Plc may provide some answers.

Every two years GlobalData conducts a survey of consumers from around the world that focuses on consumer awareness of specific ingredients and how consumers perceive ingredients and whether they are considered healthy. In the 2017 study GlobalData researchers asked about a variety of protein sources.

Pea protein, for example, fared well, said Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director for GlobalData. The data Mr. Vierhile shared with Food Business News represented the knowledge and opinions of consumers in North America.

“Consumer awareness (of pea protein) in 2017 was 47%, up from 38% in ’15,” he said. “Eighteen per cent don’t know what pea protein is. That figure in 2015 was 30%. So, that’s a pretty good sign that the ingredient is on the rise.”

Mr. Vierhile called chickpeas an “ingredient to watch,” with 57% of consumers perceiving the ingredient positively and only 10% not being familiar with it.

“Egg protein did very well,” he said. “That suggests to me there is some potential upside for experimenting with egg protein. Sixty-three per cent of consumers said it has a positive impact on health while only 5% view it negatively. Egg protein scored higher than chicken, meat, soy, pea and whey protein in the survey. I think for eggs there is a story there.”

While consumer interest in products featuring protein remains steady, product developers must be cognizant of potential “landmines,” Mr. Vierhile said.

“I was curious to see how sophisticated consumers are to individual types of protein,” he said.

Using casein as an example, he said 44% of Americans don’t know what it is.

“We are seeing companies referencing specific proteins on labels, but there are some landmines with lesser known proteins like casein,” he said.

Another ingredient that remains challenged is protein sourced from insects. Between 2015 and 2017, consumer awareness of the ingredient has risen from 15% to 26%, according to the GlobalData research.

“Still, 32% of consumers don’t understand what it is,” Mr. Vierhile said. “It’s not an ingredient that is exactly on fire; 26% is quite low.”

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