According to Packaged Facts, weight management, heart health, and digestive health are the top opportunities for protein in functional foods and beverages formulators. But with research consistently showing that the majority of adults in developed countries already get enough protein, isn’t it about time that we looked at opportunities in areas that are actually needed?
It’s a tougher ask, for sure, but there are potentially massive rewards for those who can deliver better protein solutions to those in need of it.
Whether it be undernutrition in developing countries, meeting the increased and often unmet additional protein needs of ageing, or offering solutions to the critically ill in a medical nutrition setting, there are countless challenges and opportunities for easy to deliver, easy to open and consume, protein-rich foods and drinks.
If the industry spends even half as much on developing better formulations and packaging for those who really need it as they did on those that probably do not, but will spend big bucks on it anyway, then we may be in a better situation.
Missing a trick?
Only a few days ago, Lauren Bandy senior nutrition analyst at Euromonitor International, warned that the food industry ‘is missing a billion euro trick’ when it comes to ageing population. In a guest article for NutraIngredients she suggested that “with the high protein trend moving to almost every category imaginable – ice cream, cookies, breakfast cereals and crisps – manufacturers could avoid saturating the market by targeting high protein products at the ageing population in particular, where the nutritional need is strong and disposable incomes are relatively high.”
I agree with Lauren, and while I am sure than many manufacturers have talked about the ‘huge potential’ in protein-rich foods for the elderly, there still seems to be a dearth of attractive, tasty, and easy to consume protein foods for those that need them on the supermarket shelves.
While innovations in medical nutrition and efforts to battle malnutrition in developing countries are much harder to measure the pulse of - and while I also know that many companies do work very hard and invest heavily in these areas - I cannot help feeling that the situation is remarkably similar to that described for the elderly above.
Should industry be investing more in to these ‘niche’ sectors? I believe so.
I also believe that by prioritising investment in developing advanced solutions for the people that really do need protein and dont get enough of it, the industry might actually develop some pretty cool innovations in technologies and delivery formats that could be rolled out to mass market products too.