While potential is thought to be strong for the segment, with innovation including smoothies and juice products fortified with supplementary proteins like whey, there is strong competition in a congested functional market, said the analyst.
In the group’s latest report, public scepticism of some health claims as seen was one of the major challenges facing manufacturers of ready to drink protein beverages. The group stated that besides creating a product with strong taste, evidence backed health benefits were therefore as important to the industry.
Esther Renfrew, who heads dairy market intelligence at Zenith, said that protein drinks had already undergone market developments in recent years in attempts to meet these consumer needs.
“Ready to drink protein beverages have benefited from a number of factors including technological advances and changes in lifestyle as well as improvements in the taste and texture of products,” she stated.
According to Zenith, the potential benefits of supplementary protein to body health, which has been accepted for some time by bodybuilders, is increasingly being backed by some studies suggesting wider impacts.
Although exercise and sports use still dominated the protein beverage market in 2008, holding with a 45 per cent market share, a diverse range of uses was seen in the industry.
Satiety was picked by the analyst as major area that was seeing research into the benefits of supplemented protein, with 20 per cent of sales volumes linked to products targeting weight management.
Clinical products, juices and energy drinks respectively accounted for 12 per cent, eight per cent and five per cent of protein beverage sales during the year, said Zenith.
Of the supplementary proteins used in these drinks, casein, milk, soy, egg whites and legumes were all found in formulations, although whey remained the most popular ingredient.
Zenith suggested in the report that to meet strong potential within the ready to drink protein market, targeting consumer groups such as the elderly, young and hospital patients offered strong growth opportunities.
“The entry of a major player with global distribution and sizeable marketing budgets would help to educate consumers more about the benefits of protein and take the segment to the next level,” stated the analyst.