Consumer interest in products featuring protein has not eased. 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As the calendar has turned to 2018, the incorporation of protein into food and beverage formulations remains a leading product trend. What stands out is the growing number of protein-centric ingredients consumers are willing to embrace in product formulations.

Recent new product introductions highlight the range of protein-based ingredients being used in formulations. In December, for example, Beyond Meat, El Segundo, California, introduced Beyond Sausage, a plant-based alternative that looks and cooks like pork sausage in original bratwurst, hot Italian and sweet Italian varieties. The company is marketing the product as featuring more protein and less fat than meat-based pork sausages. The Beyond Sausage line features pea, fava bean and rice protein with trace amounts of beet for color, coconut oil for juiciness and an algae-based casing.

Ripple Foods, Emeryville, California, has entered the yogurt aisle with its new Ripple Greek Yogurt Alternative, which features 12 grams of plant-based protein per serving, according to the company. Made with pea protein, sunflower oil, organic cane sugar and live active cultures, the yogurt alternatives are vegan, lactose-free, nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free and GMO-free. Varieties include original, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry and maple.

Many animal-based alternatives feature as much or more protein than their traditional counterparts.
Hampton Creek, San Francisco, has introduced Just Scramble, an egg alternative made from mung bean protein isolate. Just Scramble tastes like egg, the company said, and its ingredients require less water and generate fewer carbon emissions than conventional eggs. The product contains 20 percent more protein than a chicken egg with zero cholesterol, Hampton Creek said.

As some consumers shift to plant-based products, food manufacturers see additional opportunities to market alternatives to products traditionally formulated with animal-sourced proteins. In fact, growth of the market for alternatives to product formulated with animal-based protein was a key trend for 2018 identified by Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.

The retailer noted that “bleeding” vegan burgers and sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes are a part of an emerging crop of plant-based products that are designed to appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. Ingredients such as pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts, pecans and avocado have been used as replacement for dairy in new yogurt, ice cream and milk products.

Meat disapperance chart
During the past few years there has been an intense focus on the emergence of plant-based proteins used in product development. While plant-based ingredients are on-trend, it should not be construed that products formulated with the ingredients are taking share away from animal-sourced proteins.

Data from the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service published in December forecasts that the per capita disappearance at retail of beef, chicken and pork are all expected to rise compared to previous years. Beef, for example, is forecast to rise to 59.1 lbs. in 2018 from 57 lbs. in 2017. Pork is forecast to rise to 52.1 lbs. in 2018 from 50 lbs. in 2017, and chicken will rise to 91.9 lbs. in 2018 from 90.9 lbs. per capita in 2017.

While anecdotal, the experience of McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Illinois, underscores consumer demand for meat protein. This past September, the company added buttermilk chicken tenders to its menu. The menu item features white meat chicken that is battered, lightly seasoned and breaded. In late November, McDonald’s management acknowledged that its supply could not meet demand for the new product, and it was removed from menus until the supply situation could be addressed. The tenders were added back to McDonald’s menu in late December.