With health and wellness foremost on consumers’ minds, many are actively seeking protein-packed foods and beverages. But they’re not turning to steaks and tofu. Many are turning to protein-fortified options including dairy & dairy alternatives, snacks, meal replacements, and recovery beverages, among many other options. With the variety of protein sources currently available, as well as a marked acceleration in protein ingredient technology, it can be a challenge for formulators and marketers to know which protein ingredient is best for their product.
We hope this guide can serve as a reliable resource for product developers and marketers in their product innovation journey. There are many options in choosing a protein ingredient supplier with many attributes to consider. From cost to quality, collaboration and supply chain, finding the right partner can make all the difference in your ongoing product development cycle.
The considerations laid out in this guide can support any brand or manufacturer, no matter their size, make a more informed decision about the best partner for their individual needs.
Choosing the Right Protein Source
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 dairy-based protein concentrates, isolates, hydrolysates, and those rich in bioactive components, available from both animal and plant sources.
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 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 supplier to learn about all the options available and the often nuanced differences among them. Seeking a partner with specific protein expertise is key to creating products that will be successful in the market. One of the first places a formulator can start is with protein source. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and challenges of the most popular protein ingredients.
All Proteins Are Not Created Equal
When it comes to “plant versus dairy” proteins, what do the consumers prefer? As it happens, that depends on the product. According to a consumer study by Ipsos Retail Performance, almost 10 million Americans claim to follow plant-based diets, a nine-fold increase since 2004. Yet, when those consumers were asked about preferred protein sources for beverages, just over half (57%) cited a preference for dairy. This was more than four times the second-most preferred source (and most common plant protein source), soy (14%). Only 5% said they favored pea protein. And, more than a fifth—22%—declared no preference in protein source for their functional beverages.1
On the other side, the plant-based protein revolution is now in full swing and only expected to keep growing strong, at least through 2025.2 A 2018 Nielsen survey3 found that almost four in 10 Americans admitted to conscious efforts to add more plant-based options into their diets. In 2020—pre-Pandemic—consumer sales research group SPINS saw that number jump by about 50% to six in 10 consumers.4
Another consideration is protein quality. Dairy proteins provide a high-quality complete protein, or one that achieves a PDCAAS score of 1.0. Most plant proteins, including pea protein need other proteins to supplement their amino acid content to make them a complete protein.
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At Glanbia Nutritionals, we are experts in nutrition for healthier lifestyles at all ages and performance levels. As a collaboration partner, we lean on our global network of R&D teams and locations, decades of innovation, and our shared passion for creating nutritious products that are healthful and taste great. From standardized protein concentrates and isolates, to customized protein solutions and scientifically supported bioactive ingredients, we are here to help you choose the right ingredients for your products today and your plans for tomorrow.
We’re built to help solve your next nutrition challenge. Send us your request to see how our expertise can add to your products and business.