Protein-fortified food and beverages – Emerging innovation opportunities in APAC

A review of 6300 consumers in 12 countries across the globe, including Thailand, India, Japan and China by Kerry, the global taste and nutrition company in 2022, determined significant opportunities for protein fortification of food and beverages.

Why Protein fortification in in APAC?

In terms of protein-rich food and beverages, Kerry’s report found that:

    • Consumers are willing to pay a premium for protein fortification, with 84% in APAC willing to pay a higher price, and more than half open to paying at least 10% more.

    • Quality of protein was a key purchase driver for 60% of APAC consumers, followed by taste (60%).

    • Amount of protein per serving was the third key purchase driver for APAC consumers.

    • Consumers preferred to consume their proteins from favourite breakfast foods and indulgent snacks, with granola and cereal bars, yogurt and breakfast cereals topping the list. And drinkable yogurt, dairy-based milk and nutritional beverages were the preferred protein beverages in the region.

    • 75% of consumers have accepted plants as an ethical and sustainable source of protein, and associate it with better quality and being more nutritious. Dairy proteins come second, as it continues to enjoy high acceptance across all regions, but it has a greater degree of appeal in Asia, with 60% of consumers saying dairy protein “taste better”, are “more nutritious” and have “better quality”.

These findings imply high consumer acceptance of added protein in everyday food and beverages, as well as indulgent snacks and treats (1). It is not surprising therefore, that:

1. The Asia-Pacific protein market size which is currently estimated to be USD 6.99 billion, is expected to reach USD 9.59 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 5.40% during the forecast period (2023-2029) (1).

2. Beyond whey or hydrolysed whey protein concentrate, supermarket shelves and e-commerce platforms now showcase a range of high protein food and beverages, that is, high protein bars, cookies, crackers, chips, shakes, yogurt and even ice-cream. And for vegans who cannot consume whey protein, pea protein concentrate is now easily available.

In terms of a consumer profile for high-protein food and beverages, they can be segregated into 3 groups: 

Group 1: Health-conscious Active Everyday Consumers

Historically, high protein supplements were reserved for professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts. More recently, post pandemic, everyday health-conscious consumers, who eat and drink healthfully, and exercise regularly, are also looking for protein-fortified food and beverages, to boost their fitness levels and overall health. This trend in Asia-Pacific is due to the fact that protein consumers are motivated by health and wellness – 52% associate protein with a “healthy diet”; and 48% regard protein as “generally healthy”; and link protein with enhancing skin health, beauty and immunity (2).

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

The difference between fitness enthusiasts and every day healthy active consumers, is that the latter:

  1. Are not happy with just an unflavoured protein concentrate. They want great-tasting, convenient high-protein products that can complement their busy lifestyles. Fortunately, new-age protein ingredients enable the creation of food that deliver an enjoyable eating experience.
  2. Want a protein fix with fewer calories as they are usually calorie-conscious.
  3. They lead busy lifestyles and sometimes skip meals.

Bars, shakes, cookies, chips that taste great, are high in protein, and preferably sugar and carb free are usually their meal skipping go-to snacks. If cost is an issue, they stay with a home-made shake made with an unflavoured or flavoured protein powder with milk or plant-based milk and fruit.

 Group 2: Flexitarians  

Flexitarians are aware of environmental issues and in respect of the environment, they replace some of the animal products, especially meat, in their diet with plant-based protein options. It is estimated that 42% of global consumers are flexitarians; and it is important to note, that flexitarians are more common in the new generation of consumers (3).

Experts believe that it is these flexitarians who are driving the global demand for plant-based alternatives.

As flexitarians switch to plant-based protein, they may require protein-fortified food and beverages to meet their daily protein needs. A shake made with pea or whey protein, a protein-fortified bar or cracker, or high-protein Greek yogurt, a big portion of tofu or tempeh may be required daily to meet daily protein requirement.

Group 3: Middle-Aged Population

As one ages, the body requires roughly 50% more protein than a younger adult, that is, protein needs increase from 0.8g / kg body weight for adults < 50-year-old, to 1.2g / kg body weight for adults ≥50-year-old. This additional protein helps build and maintain muscle, and slows the onset of sarcopenia or loss of muscle mass and function that occurs with age.

Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash
  1. As loss of muscle mass increases risk of falls and bone fractures, and hinders everyday activities such as walking, grocery shopping etc. it is imperative for individuals who are older than 55 years of age, to consume more protein (4). The challenge however, is that appetite decreases with age and or an individual cannot really eat more. This requires the inclusion of protein-fortified food and beverages and currently, besides whey or pea protein, there aren’t many affordable everyday protein solutions for older adults to include in their diets.

In Summary

With the demand for protein fortification exploding, a new range of convenient, great tasting protein-fortified food and beverages are needed. Protein-enhanced ready to drink coffee, fortified bread and biscuits, wraps. water and noodles are some examples of food and beverages to consider. And the good news is – protein-rich ingredients today are not chalky or beany any more. Ingredient quality of both plant and animal protein sources has improved and most ingredients are available in a clean, neutral flavour and aroma to meet consumer expectations for taste, texture and experience.

Sources:

1. Asia-Pacific Protein Market SIZE & SHARE ANALYSIS – GROWTH TRENDS & FORECASTS UP TO 2029, https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/asia-pacific-protein-market

2. The protein mindset report in Asia Pacific. https://www.apfoodonline.com/the-protein-mindset-report-in-asia-pacific/

3. Euromonitor, The Rise of Vegan and Vegetarian food. 2021.

4. Older adults need more protein. Health hub. https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/seniors-need-more-protein

VeVeva Nutrition Pte Ltd established in 2019, is a nutrition consultancy for the food and beverage industry, individuals and groups. We provide holistic nutrition consultancy for innovations, communications and product promotions, from concept to launch. For more information, email: yashna.harjani@vevevanutrition.com.

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