Another year dawns—and protein is still well-nigh inescapable. But a dive into the data uncovers no lack of ferment within the category.
Consider the story surrounding plant proteins. When looking at plant-based options broadly, their continued growth in the conventional multi-outlet (MULO) channel—at a rate of 20% in 2017—signals mainstream appeal. But that 20% rate is a fraction of the 53.5% growth that plant proteins saw in MULO during 2016, and it accompanies an 8.1% drop in sales in the natural channel.
The story for multi-plant protein blends, however, is rosier, as sales in MULO rose at a rate of 36.7% to hit more than $92 million in 2017. Speaking specifically about multi-source plant ingredient combinations, Scott Dicker, natural products researcher for SPINS, notes that such products “have been perceived as more natural, perhaps clean label and thereby more popular among natural products industry (NPI) consumers.”
All told, they accounted for more than half of sales in the plant-based set, he adds, despite their notching a decline in the natural channel.
And don’t forget animal proteins! In almost the reverse of the plant world, animal-based protein sales are trending upward in the natural channel, hitting more than $48 million at a growth rate of 21.8%, while declining by 0.1% in MULO. That said, Dicker notes, “Because natural channel shoppers prioritize clean labels, NPI attributes such as grass-fed dairy proteins are now boosting popularity in the natural space. Dairy protein has caught up to the label claims and positioning that drives the NPI, and they are taking back a lot of the market share.”
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