The Asia-Pacific Protein Market: What Consumers Want in 2020

The Asia-Pacific Protein Market: What Consumers Want in 2020

Global demand for protein in food and beverage products continues to rise. According to the American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI), the top protein-fortification ingredients by volume in the global market are soy and dairy, followed by pea, wheat, potato and rice. 

Asia-Pacific Trends by Protein Type

While advantages in cost, availability, nutrition and functionality will keep soy and dairy in the lead, the other proteins have strong appeal in specific applications, such as wheat protein in baking and pea protein as a non-GM, allergy-free alternative to soy.

Global Supply of Protein Fortification Ingredients (estimated)


 Protein Ingredient  Metric Tons
 Soy  2,000,000                                    
 Dairy  890,000
 Pea  140,000
 Wheat  70,000
 Potato  65,000
 Rice  11,000
 Other  10,000
Source: ADPI1

Consumers’ strong and growing interest in protein is creating new opportunities that touch on the functional benefits of different proteins, protein diversity in the diet and new protein sources. Here’s a look at some major emerging themes by protein type:


Dairy protein use in the Asia-Pacific, or ASPAC, market is increasing. The fastest-growing sources of dairy protein supply in the region are whey protein concentrates (WPC) and whey protein isolates (WPI). Between 2016 and 2021, compound annual growth rates were estimated at 15% for WPI and 6% for WPC, according to 3A Business Consulting.2 Sectors like infant formula, sports nutrition and dairy beverages are the chief drivers behind this growth. 


According to a recent report by LP Information3, plant protein consumption in the ASPAC region is expected to grow annually by nearly 12% through 2025. Soy continues to be the largest source of protein and is by far the largest protein source in the region. Currently, demand for soy, wheat, pea and rice protein is larger than that for whey protein. 


The growing demand for protein in the ASPAC market has launched an interest in alternative proteins, which, in many cases, harks back to the region’s traditional foods and culinary heritage. The use of proteins derived from legumes, such as mung beans, edamame, black-eyed beans and kidney beans, has allowed some brands to achieve innovation in beverages while also promoting the health benefits of protein diversity. To further this success, manufacturers can and are choosing from a variety of newer protein ingredients, such as chickpea, sacha inchi, hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seed proteins.4

Using blends of animal and plant proteins, or animal and fungal proteins, is another approach that is addressing consumers’ interest in protein diversity. These types of protein blends allow a consumer to have the complete protein benefits associated with animal proteins like whey proteins— along with the superfood benefits of certain plants and mushrooms. Beef and mushroom-blended burgers and dairy almond milk are early examples of this trend. Another trend is the use of plant-based protein blends formulated to have the right balance of amino acids to be a complete protein.

ASPAC Consumers’ Top Protein Needs

Food, beverage and supplement manufacturers are well aware of consumers’ interest in protein. Even so, understanding what those buyers are looking for in terms of protein type, format and health benefits is not always as clear. Here’s a review of 2020’s top trends in protein at midyear:


According to Glanbia Nutritionals’ recent research5, dairy protein is the preferred protein source for Chinese consumers over the age of 55. Whey protein was preferred by 34% of surveyed consumers in that demographic, while 27% indicated a preference for milk protein. In the same study, Japanese consumers in that age cohort indicated a strong preference for soy protein — 56%. 

There are some differences between the two groups, however. When read the statement, “The source of the protein is more important than the protein content,” 71% of the Chinese consumers surveyed indicated they agreed, while only 29% of Japanese consumers felt the same way. 


Heightened focus on active lifestyles and exercise is a becoming a larger part of life in growing economies in Asia Pacific, particularly in China. According to Mintel6, in the past several years Chinese consumers have developed a growing awareness of the importance of incorporating sports and/or exercise into their daily lives. More than half, 51%, indicated, “I am a sports/exercise lover,” in an online survey. When asked about needs to support their active lifestyles, 41% of Chinese consumers indicated that protein replenishment was important. 

India is expected to be the next major market for evolving consumer interest in fitness. Euromonitor7 predicts growth of more than 10% over the next five years there, thanks to data showing that 62% of urban Indian consumers aspire to live a healthier lifestyle over the next three years.8

Choosing the Right Protein Solution

While consumers’ protein needs may be very diverse, there are fortunately a wide variety of protein ingredients on the market to meet these needs—including protein concentrates, isolates, hydrolysates, and bioactives, available from both animal and plant sources. There are protein options suitable for all types of foods, beverages, and supplements, as well as personal care products.

The simplest approach to choosing the right protein ingredient for any product is to first determine which benefits are needed to achieve the best product for the target consumer. All proteins are not created equal. Differences in nutrient quality, functionality, flavor, cost, health benefits, and consumer perception will influence protein selection. What works the best in a nutrition bar may not be ideal for protein water or plant-based meat, for example.

In developing a new protein product or reformulating a product to improve its protein content, it can be helpful to lean on the ingredient manufacturer to learn about all the options available and the often nuanced differences among them. From dairy-based, plant-based to bioactive proteins, we are here to help choose the right protein for your products. Contact Glanbia Nutritionals to learn more about how we can assist you in developing your next protein based product.


1. American Dairy Products Institute. (2018). The Changing Protein Ingredient Landscape.
2. 3A Business Consulting (2017). Whey Book. 
3. LP Information. (2020). Global Plant Protein Market Growth 2020-2025.
4. Mintel. (2020). A year of innovation in plant-based drinks, yogurt & ice cream, 2020. 
5. Glanbia Nutritional Proprietary Research. (2019). Healthy Aging & Beauty from Within Beverages in China, Japan & US. 
6. Mintel. (2018). Attitudes towards sports nutrition-China. 
7. Euromonitor. (2019). Sports Nutrition in India. 
8. Mintel. (2019). Protein and probiotics and opportunity for Indian dairy. 

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