There are four approaches to personalization:
- Assessing health, goals, medical history, and more
- Using biomarkers to identify nutrient needs
- Evaluating the microbiome
- Using genetic tests
The trend toward the personalization of products is creating high growth opportunities in health and wellness—particularly in the nutrition space. Here’s a look at the emerging segment of personalized protein powders and how they’re addressing consumers’ most important concerns.
There are four approaches to personalization:
Personalized protein ready-to-mix (RTM) powders are currently a niche market but represent a high growth opportunity due to the increasing demand for personalized foods and beverages. Protein powders remain hugely popular, making up just over half (51%) of retail sports nutrition products sales globally.1 The $11.1 billion global protein powder market is expected to see steady growth ahead at a CAGR of 8.1% from 2019 to 2024.2
In the U.S., nearly half of sports nutrition product consumers purchase protein powder.3 Of these, more than 3 out of 4 do so to maintain a healthy body weight.4 For health- and fitness-oriented consumers who already include protein powders in their diets, protein powders that offer the exact benefits they need with additional targeted nutrients and functional ingredients represent a huge added value.
The U.S.’s $13.5 million personalized protein powder market is currently made up of just a handful of companies. All of them rely on one or more of these four approaches to develop their personalized protein powders:
The assessment approach is the broadest approach and is based on questionnaires that ask about things like height, weight, gender, medical history, and personal goals.
Biomarker-based services typically utilize blood tests to get an accurate assessment of nutrient needs.
Brands targeting gut health-conscious consumers may utilize stool samples to evaluate the gut microbiome.
DNA testing, often via a saliva swab, is used by some brands to assess genes linked to health or fitness.
Besides using different approaches to collect consumers’ health data, companies also use different strategies to deliver personalized nutrition. One strategy is personalization by combination. Care/of, for example, recommends several individual products (based on assessment) that together address the consumer’s needs. This might include Care/of Creatine for high-intensity exercise, Plant Protein for muscle recovery, and Chia-Flax for added fiber.
Personalization of individual products is another strategy. Brands like Buddy Nutrition and Gainful take this approach to produce a custom-formulated and blended powder for each consumer. A Buddy Nutrition powder might be blended from, for example, the brand’s Carb Enzyme Boost, Turmeric Boost, and Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Boost, in addition to a custom protein blend. The powder would also include the consumer’s chosen flavor.
Personalization will continue to become more finely tuned as technology advances, particularly genetic testing. Epigenetics (how genes are turned on or off based on environmental triggers) will likely also play a role going forward in the personalized nutrition space.
Succeeding with personalized protein powders relies on an understanding of consumers’ wide range of concerns—from exercise support to weight management to joint, gut, and skin health. It’s also essential to have good data collection tools and, of course, high-quality ingredients that can meet consumers' needs.
Protein powders sold to consumers are regulated by the FDA as dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). As with conventional foods, misbranding and adulteration are prohibited in the manufacture of protein powders, and manufacturers are responsible for ensuring product safety and labeling meet the FDA regulations.
For any new dietary supplement ingredient (including a new protein powder), a manufacturer must submit a notification to the FDA for review before the product containing it goes to market. Under DSHEA, structure/function claims (such as “supports healthy muscles”) can be used to describe the benefits of a supplement as long as the manufacturer keeps on file scientific evidence supporting the claim.
Protein contains essential amino acids that our bodies need to support a variety of functions—from muscle building to energy production to immune response. While most people get the bulk of their protein from a healthy diet, some groups of people are interested in the benefits of higher protein intakes—and protein powder helps them achieve this.
A protein powder offers a quick and easy way to take in more protein than one can usually get from foods. This is because a protein powder has been processed from the original food into a concentrated source of protein. Athletes, active lifestyle consumers, and seniors are just a few examples of people looking for extra protein for muscle support, satiety, weight management, and more.
Protein is an essential nutrient for workout recovery to repair and rebuild muscle after resistance or endurance exercise. The best type of protein for workout recovery is one that contains all of the essential amino acids in the proportion needed by the body. This ensures no amino acid is in short supply, which would hinder the protein synthesis process.
Protein quality is measured by its Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), with a score of 1.00 indicating a complete protein. Whey protein’s PDCAAS of 1.00 makes it a top choice for workout recovery, which is why it’s so often used in sports nutrition products. Casein, egg white, and soy protein are also very high in quality.
Even among whey protein ingredients, however, there are some differences that can impact exercise recovery. For example, whey protein isolate (WPI) has benefits over whey protein concentrate (WPC) that include more protein, higher branched chain amino acid (BCAA) content, and less fat and lactose.
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