by Marion Nestle
Apr 5 2013

What’s new in food marketing? Protein!

Protein, a nutrient consumed by Americans at levels greatly in excess of requirements, is the latest fad in food marketing.

Protein is the buzzword that is helping sell many kinds of foods. Food companies are placing more prominent protein labels on packaging and adding protein to such products as drinks, bars and cereals…A label that says protein has what researchers call a “health halo effect” that goes beyond just the promise of protein. When people see the word, they also believe the product will make them feel more full or give them energy.

FoodNavigator-USA, a newsletter for the food industry, did a special edition on marketing innovations in protein-rich foods:

Once the preserve of sweaty men pumping iron, protein has emerged from an image overhaul as the ingredient of choice for product developers targeting men and women of all ages keen to battle the bulge and stay strong, lean and active as they age. In this FoodNavigator-USA special edition we explore consumer attitudes to protein, the latest market research, and how protein can fit into new product concepts in health and wellness, weight management, sports nutrition and more mass market products targeting women, boomers, and other groups.We also look at what protein options are available for formulators, from new algal-based proteins to pea, soy and milk proteins.

Learn to Pack a Protein Punch Customers Love (registration required for this one)

From Chobani to Special K: Are we on the cusp of a protein renaissance?

Selling protein to boomers (without talking about muscle wastage…) As any self-respecting baby boomer will tell you, getting old is something that happens to other people, and being told you’re not as sprightly as you once were is not the best way to get you to part with your hard-earned cash… 

Could algae be the next big thing in the protein market? Part one: Solazyme Roquette NutritionalsMuch has been written about the potential of proteins such as pea and canola as firms seek alternatives to dairy and other carbon-intensive – and increasingly pricey – animal proteins. But what about microalgae?.. 

Could algae be the next big thing in the protein market? Part two: Aurora AlgaeProtein has never been hotter – at least that’s what the market researchers tell us – and vegetarian proteins in particular are top of the pops right now… 

US pea protein market ‘ready to explode’For a long time in the shadow of soy as a plant protein source, pea protein is establishing itself in food and beverage applications, with the US market set to explode, say industry experts… 

Cost and supply benefits are ‘icing on the cake’ for soy proteinsAfter a few years of difficult market conditions, the soy protein market is enjoying ‘dynamic growth’, but what does the future hold for this ingredient, and what kind of impact will the GMO issue have?.. 

Functional improvements drive demand for milk proteinsContinued development of new functional properties of casein and whey proteins will drive growth in their use and innovation in their applications in the coming year, said dairy experts… 

Fonterra consumer research reveals ‘fantastic opportunity’ to educate boomers on proteinIf manufacturers can present them in a more appealing way, there is a huge untapped market in the US for higher protein products appealing to baby boomers looking to stay active, according to consumer research from dairy giant Fonterra Nutrition…

Have you had your P.L.A.Y. today? PepsiCo targets women with new protein product launchPepsiCo is developing a novel protein-based product designed to appeal to women that “won’t show up on a shelf the way you envision it”, revealed bosses at its Nutrition Ventures arm at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) this week… 

And this just in, also from FoodNavigator-USA:   PepsiCo seeks to patent novel high-protein nutrition beverages in 4floz ‘hydration units’ as protein craze gathers pace 

  • Larry Karp

    All of this marketing hype for something so easily obtained in a normal balanced diet to meet the needs for most adults, 1gm of dietary protein per kg of body weight.

  • Jeff Harpell

    Every time I read about another food trend, be it, gluten-free diets, protein-rich foods, caffeinated gum, etc., I lose hope. The vast majority of Americans still seek quick, prepared food choices instead of preparing fresh, real food for a daily, well-balanced diet. I really don’t see this changing due to the stranglehold the food industry has on the food chain and on American mindshare.

    As you said, Americans already consume more daily protein than they need. The fact that Vegetarianism, Veganism, and the paleo-diet are more popular now and may be contributing to the demand in protein-rich, prepared food. But the overall state of diet and food preparation has complex causes. A double-edged sword in American eating habits includes quickly adopting other cultures’ cuisines and Americanizing them, but at the same being tricked into long-term, unhealthy eating habits. Part of it’s due to the hectic work schedules most people live under, but part is due to a real lack of a long, culinary tradition and to an uneducated public on food, cooking and health.

  • George H

    I think you said it all, even a few years ago, and well, in “What to Eat”, protein is not lacking in American diets. Did people and do people know that? Apparently not. What we need is a brain and the ability to observe and think.

    But we are a nation of instant gratification and get rich (really slim and healthy we are talking about here) quick and easy. So if we can’t get it, imagine we can is a pretty good deal. So advertisement works here in the America. It makes us feel better, away from reality.

    Perhaps the good thing out of this is the diversity of the sources of protein. It use to be meat. Now at least we are getting it from everywhere.

    I personally like protein and pay a lot of attention to it. But I am not replacing other types of foods, increasing my total calorie intake or paying more because of a label.

  • Mary

    So many people willing to part with their hard earned money after falling for this hype!

  • Brad

    According to your writings, the FDA is heavily influenced by lobbyists and their recommendations shouldn’t really be trusted. If that is the case, how do we know extra protein consumption is a bad thing? Protein has a greater effect on satiety and a greater thermic effect in the body. Maybe the FDA’s recommendation for protein is actually too low. Of course, high quality protein from healthy food choices is important, as increased soy intake is just going to wreck everyone. What are your thoughts?

  • Lisa Ham

    Just the other day I was about to pick up a nice box of Grape-Nuts when I saw a suspicious “Now more protein !” banner. Of course, it now has some kind of soy protein added. I think this is so stupid to add protein to cereal. First off, most people pour some sort of protein laden beverage over their cereal so who needs extra? Second, anyone allergic to soy will now have to avoid your product. Third, it makes people like me angry and I am far too willing to complain about a product to anyone who is stuck within hearing distance for my own good!. By the way, I did NOT buy Grape-Nuts brand but made a happy purchase of store brand “BranBits” without the soy adulteration.

  • http://wartrol-review.org/ John

    I found that even Protein Diets are very popular. A high-protein diet generally isn’t harmful if followed for a short time, such as six months or less, and may help with weight loss. However, the risks of using a high-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for the long term are still being studied.

  • http://www.nielpatel.blogspot.com Niel

    I suggest checking out The Protein Book by Lyle McDonald. It does a great job of looking at various studies on dietary protein and the methods used to measure and formulate recommendations for individuals.

  • http://www.thefastdiethq.com John Smith

    I agree that there are many protein products out there, but you still have to watch what you buy. there are a lot of products out there that add too much bad fillers just to get the flavor.

  • http://www.dropitandeat.blogspot.com Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN

    Yes, but this is hardly a new trend–just a pervasive one! I wrote about this in a post more than a year ago http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2012/03/protein-new-black.html

  • http://www.calorieburnerz.com Danni

    Surely, everything in moderation is the best way to go?

  • http://agelproductsreview.com Yaron

    The most important thing in this hype is to promote the healthy protein related food and not the problematic ones…

  • http://www.omegajuicerreviewer.com/ Jenna

    I can’t help feeling that unless there is a specific problem it is best to ensure that you obtain protein or any other important substance, in a natural way, ie through food, then only consider supplements when this is proven not to work

  • Richard Finkelson

    Regarding this statement: “Proteins can be found in a variety of foods that we eat on a regular basis and the table below displays the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended daily protein intake.” I am wondering what the basis of this recommendation is — recommended for what? There is ample research indicating that there are different levels of protein required to meet different fitness goals. To lump all of those people together as musclebound lunkheads seems disingenuous.

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  • Chris John

    I think some of the protein “hype” has to do with Americans being more aware of the role that protein plays in their exercise regimen. There are a lot of people that go to the gym and are aware that timely nutrient delivery post-exercise can help to build muscle mass and decrease fat. Protein manufacturing is in high demand and as a supplement business owner, I know that protein powders for all age groups are my top-selling items.

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  • agel

    Tthere are many many protein products out there, but you have to be carrefull what and where to buy them.

    take care.

    agel