Over the last twenty years, we’ve seen some famous faces–from Naomi Campbell to Elton John to Bill Clinton–sporting iconic milk mustaches in glossy magazine ads and asking a simple question: Got Milk? Now that it’s 2014, the celebrities are out and ordinary folks have taken their place in “Milk Life” ads (sidenote: if you’ve ever wondered what 2% milk and break-dancing have in common, check out this video) that shine the spotlight on a characteristic many beverages lack: protein. It’s smart timing on the part of the milk marketers: protein-rich foods and drinks are trending steadily, dominating the market, and showing up in unexpected places.
Perhaps the biggest surprise with the high-protein trend is that it isn’t limited to the athletic and fitness-minded set. Protein continues to show up everywhere as an enhancement to sweets, snacks, and meal components. Much of the interest in protein stems from a growing consumer consciousness of fitness, satiety, and healthy aging. Here are some key areas protein has caught on with consumers lately:
Greek Yogurt, Re-Imagined
Opting for this creamy Mediterranean treat is a great way to incorporate protein into your diet without excessive sugar or fat. A 6-ounce serving has 15 to 20 grams of protein–the same as 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat!–versus regular yogurt’s less impressive 9 grams. Milk proteins specifically promise the slow-release, sustained-energy benefits you find in complex carbohydrates such as oats or barley. This helps you feel fuller longer, and it’s something consumers have definitely noticed. We’re looking forward to the new and inventive possibilities the near future holds for Greek yogurt in the realm of savory flavors–be they enhanced with olives, onions, garlic, or jalapenos.
Protein-Packed, Grain-Based Foods
Enriching your carb-and-fiber staples with a boost of protein is currently a very popular strategy for manufacturers, particularly when it comes to snacks and breakfast foods. Nature Valley, a company known for its tasty granola bars, introduced chewy bars with “Protein” prominently featured on the front of the box, along with the 10-grams-per-serving designation. It’s easier than ever to get plenty of protein at breakfast, too, thanks to products like Kellogg Eggo Protein Waffles (with 8 grams per serving), Post Foods’ Great Grains Protein Blend Whole Grain Cereal (8 grams per serving), and the Special K Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich.
If you frequent the deli, you’re likely to notice an increase in hand-held snack options featuring delicious protein-rich foods like meat and cheese. Deli industry leaders Hormel and Oscar Mayer recently launched products capitalizing on the protein trend–Hormel’s Rev Wraps (featuring varieties like peppered turkey, pepperoni pizza, and ham and cheese) and Oscar Mayer’s P3 packs (which include three protein sources–meat, cheese, and nuts–together in a portable, single-serving sized package). Expect to see more deli offerings that combine protein-centered foods in a convenient, snack-friendly format.
The protein trend reveals a bigger trend toward offering consumers easier ways to make healthy eating choices. Popular eating plans like the Paleo Diet continue to steer people toward lower sugar, higher protein products that promise better health while still delivering great taste and satisfaction.
“Protein awareness is higher and more sought after by US consumers than elsewhere in the world and the opportunity exists for value brands to add cost effective protein to products to entice a larger consumer segment,” one global good science trend analyst noted. “Americans are looking for protein to aid in satiety, weight management and to boost muscle recovery and build muscle after a workout, making protein appeal to a broad audience in a great number of usage occasions.”
We’re confident protein has the muscle to endure as a healthy, satisfying choice in every area of the food and beverage market. Now if you’ll excuse us, the deli is calling our number…
Finally, for something a little weird: As seen on ABC’s Shark Tank, “Cricket energy bars aim to get more Americans to eat bugs.” Chirp chirp!