Global Trends by Protein Type
The top protein fortification ingredients by volume in the global market continue to be soy and dairy, according to the American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI), followed by pea, wheat, potato, and rice. While advantages in cost, availability, nutrition, and functionality will keep soy and dairy in the lead, 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|
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 emerging themes by protein type:
DEMAND FOR PLANT PROTEINS GROWING
Plant-based proteins continue to gain traction, particularly in North America and Europe. While plant-based proteins are increasingly being incorporated into sports nutrition products, growth in flexitarian eating is also creating demand for plant-based proteins in meat and dairy alternatives. Soy protein remains the go-to plant protein for nutrition products due to its high protein quality and for plant-based meats due to the functional properties it offers.
However, issues of GM crop contamination (especially in Europe) and concerns around allergens and phytoestrogens are driving a shift toward non-soy plant proteins, particularly in premium products. Pea protein is the up-and-coming plant protein of choice for manufacturers who wish to sidestep the issues surrounding soy. Though the pea protein market is still small, at just a fraction of the soy protein market, it’s rapidly expanding to meet demand. A key challenge will be in finding an outlet for the pea starch produced as a by-product to help bring down the cost.
DAIRY PROTEINS LEADING IN PREMIUM PRODUCTS
Dairy proteins, which include whey and milk proteins, will continue to lead in premium applications, such as sports nutrition, clinical nutrition, and infant formula. Known as a complete protein source, dairy proteins also offer important advantages over soy proteins in taste and functionality. Dairy proteins are expected to gain share in niches that emphasize protein quality. Examples include fresh dairy products like yogurt and ice cream, products for infants and children, and sports nutrition products like protein-fortified ready-to-drink beverages and bars.
The sports nutrition category, in particular, is characterized by nutrition-savvy consumers that are likely to understand not just the concept of protein quality, but also the performance implications associated with different types of proteins. For example, fast-absorbing whey proteins are popular for post-workout muscle building and maintenance, while slow-absorbing milk proteins are known for providing sustained release and satiety. In the U.S., dairy is the preferred protein choice for beverages.
ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS FOR PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION
In North America, the growing demand for protein has launched an interest in alternative proteins which is as much about culinary adventure as it is about nutrition. Using proteins derived from other legumes, seeds, nuts, fungi, or algae is a way to add excitement, as well as the health benefits of protein diversity, to any product. Manufacturers can choose from a variety of newer protein ingredients, such as chickpea, sacha inchi, hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seed proteins.