Consumers are highly aware of the health benefits of protein, so fortification can be expected to increase. In particular, whey protein is a promising ingredient for bakery and snacks, according to Kirsty Nolan, analyst, Canadean.
But is there a danger of going too far? With protein on track to become standard, healthy snacks will need to keep an eye out for a new ‘super-ingredient’ to set them apart from the protein crowd.
The protein odyssey: from shakes to snacks
A recent Canadean report found that half of UK consumers are "very aware" of protein's health benefits, further opening the door for protein enriched food and drinks.
16% of the survey’s respondents said they deliberately sought out groceries that were high in protein, and 8% used protein supplements. 68% of supplement users would be prepared to substitute protein shakes for fortified food and drinks.
Nolan says this is an opportunity the bakery and snacks sector can easily grasp, and whey protein is one ingredient that will help bump up protein content in the future.
“The EU commission says that, in order to state a product is a source of protein, 12% of the energy value must be provided by protein," she said.
"This figure is 20% for a high protein claim. Flour naturally contains proteins (bread flour for instance is approximately 12% protein) making such formulations realistically achievable in bakery and snacks.
“Gluten proteins from wheat flour are commonly used in bakery, owing to their natural presence, while dairy proteins also used for their higher protein content.
“Whey proteins, which are commonly associated with supplements, are expected to be used more frequently in food formulations as isolate varieties can contain up to 90% protein. This means a small amount can have a big impact on the protein level, and only a small impact on taste and texture.”
Healthy snacks will need new super ingredients
Protein is currently a product differentiator, but Nolan believes it’s only a matter of time before it becomes considered standard. At that point, healthy snacks will have to look for a new ‘super ingredient’ to set themselves apart from the crowd.
“Protein fortification is here to stay – the big question is for how long it will remain a product differentiator, and at what point will it become commoditized and viewed as a standard product feature,” she said.
“The industry has to avoid the impulse to simply add more protein to everything. The line between differentiator and commodity is likely to be crossed by big brands adding protein to snacks positioned around fun and indulgence.
"This is probably only a few years away, at which point healthy snacks will need a new super-ingredient with which to differentiate themselves.”