Animal- or plant-based (or both), food marketers promoted the protein content of their recent innovations at Natural Products Expo West, held March 9-12 in Anaheim. Historically a vegetarian and granola trade show, dairy and meat proteins were as prevalent as proteins derived from grains, nuts and pulses.

This should be no surprise, as protein was identified as the most sought out nutrient by US shoppers, according to the 2016 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), Washington, DC. An impressive 64 percent of Americans picked protein in the survey, a statistically significant increase compared to 2015.

Goodseed hempseed burgers
The growing category of heat-and-eat meals made with plant proteins represents the biggest competition for meat and poultry processors.

A number of new animal proteins — as is, in prepared meals and dried into jerky — made their debut at the expo. Products carried descriptors such as “no antibiotics ever,” “grass fed” and “no nitrites.” Varied fish products were also showcased, with marketers often emphasizing their sustainable sourcing, as well as their omega-3 fatty acid content.

The biggest competition for meat and poultry processors is the growing category of heat-and-eat meals made with plant proteins, namely proteins sourced from soybeans and pulses. The latter, which are the dried seeds of plants from the legume family that includes peas, edible beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc., are being used to formulate protein-rich products such as pastas and meat analogs. These products typically flag that they are made specifically with plant proteins, often identifying the source.