Consumers are aware of the importance of protein and are keen on finding alternative protein types to traditional meat and dairy sources. The trend towards ‘high protein’ foods has gained significant momentum during the last few years, with Canadean reporting that the proportion of new food and drink product launches which claim to be ‘high protein’ increased 6% globally between 2013 and 2015.

According to research, the group that are the primary drivers of the trend are millennials and men. In diets protein can be used, for example, for weight gain in the form of muscle growth and repair, as well as for weight loss as it creates a feeling of satiety. Canadean reports that over a third of 18-34 year-olds claim to be trying to consume as much protein as possible and with the general negativity surrounding carbohydrates and sugar, protein has been propelled to the forefront.

Innovative product launches: rival formats

As consumers become more aware of their food and beverage choices, tapping into the health industry with product development that competes with existing protein formats has started to soar in popularity. Traditionally powder protein shakes have been used by many people, either pre or post workout for an added protein boost, however the industry is introducing new ways of on-the-go protein consumption. Arla Foods has expanded its Arla Protein range with the launch of two new products, Arla Protein Pouches and Arla Protein Greens.

The Arla Protein Pouches see Arla tapping into the on-the-go market with 200g pouches of the yoghurt-based snack, designed to be consumed whilst on the move and offer a convenient protein-packed snack, with 20g of protein per serving. Arla Protein Greens sees the brand launch a Mango Kale and Lime flavour variant into the core range with the new flavour appealing to health-conscious consumers who are keen to try exciting new combinations. The yoghurt category from Arla has more than doubled year on year and this is due to the success of Arla skyr and Arla Protein, although the brand already comprises a number of different dairy products including milk, yoghurt and cheese, as well as Lactofree, Protein Milkshakes and Protein Snack Pots.

Health concerns: elevated blood sugar levels

Aside from catering to workout regimes, new products are also aiming to tackle existing health conditions. Last year, Arla developed a high-protein 100ml Pre-Meal Shot concept that highlights the potential for launching innovative products that deliver improved blood sugar control in a natural and convenient way. The Pre-Meal Shot concept is high in fibre and contains 15g of Lacprodan whey protein. Results of a recent clinical trial demonstrated that consumption of 15g of whey protein by people with type 2 diabetes before a meal helped to keep their blood sugar levels within the normal glycaemic range following the meal. Diabetics and pre-diabetics are susceptible to hyperglycaemia – prolonged periods when levels of sugar in the blood are too high. Left untreated, this can lead to a number of serious health complications.

Peter Schouw Andersen, Head of Science and Sales Development at Arla Foods Ingredients, said: “The high prevalence and growth of diabetes and pre-diabetes is primarily due to a global rise in the prevalence of obesity associated with unhealthy lifestyles and a global ageing population. There is an enormous market opportunity for health and functional food companies to offer natural solutions to help people living with the high blood sugar levels associated with these conditions.”

He continued: “The challenge is to find products that fit easily into people’s lifestyles in terms of convenience and nutrition. Our application scientists have taken on this challenge to develop a natural, very low volume and yet highly nutritious 100ml Pre-Meal Shot with 15g of high-quality whey proteins and fibres. Such a high concentration of whey proteins in a beverage normally gels or results in a thick liquid. But our application experts have developed Lacprodan® DI-6820, a compound that beverage manufacturers can use to produce ultra-convenient, tasty UHT beverages containing high quantities of premium quality whey proteins.”

The Pre-Meal Shot has been developed as part of Arla Foods Ingredients’ Nutrition for Life marketing campaign, which showcases how whey protein delivers important health benefits to people at all stages of life, from babies and toddlers, through to seniors. All of this research shows that there is a demand from consumers for high protein products and the industry appears to be thoroughly capitalising on this opportunity.