Consumer awareness data show pea protein is an ingredient on the rise.

Consumer perception of proteins

A question for product developers is how far are consumers willing to go in experimenting with new types of protein? Insights from the market research company GlobalData Plc may provide some answers.

Every two years GlobalData conducts a survey of consumers from around the world that focuses on consumer awareness of specific ingredients and how consumers perceive ingredients and whether they are considered healthy. In the 2017 study GlobalData researchers asked about a variety of protein sources.

Pea protein, for example, fared well, said Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director for GlobalData. The data Vierhile shared with Food Business News represented the knowledge and opinions of consumers in North America.

“Consumer awareness (of pea protein) in 2017 was 47 percent, up from 38 percent in ’15,” he said. “Eighteen per cent don’t know what pea protein is. That figure in 2015 was 30 percent. So, that’s a pretty good sign that the ingredient is on the rise.”

57 percent of consumers perceive chickpeas as a positive ingredient. 
Vierhile called chickpeas an “ingredient to watch,” with 57 percent of consumers perceiving the ingredient positively and only 10 percent not being familiar with it.

“Egg protein did very well,” he said. “That suggests to me there is some potential upside for experimenting with egg protein. Sixty-three per cent of consumers said it has a positive impact on health while only 5 percent view it negatively. Egg protein scored higher than chicken, meat, soy, pea and whey protein in the survey. I think for eggs there is a story there.”

While consumer interest in products featuring protein remains steady, product developers must be cognizant of potential “landmines,” Vierhile said.

“I was curious to see how sophisticated consumers are to individual types of protein,” he said.

44 percent of America don't know what casein is.
Using casein as an example, he said 44 percent of Americans don’t know what it is.

“We are seeing companies referencing specific proteins on labels, but there are some landmines with lesser known proteins like casein,” he said.

Another ingredient that remains challenged is protein sourced from insects. Between 2015 and 2017, consumer awareness of the ingredient has risen from 15 percent to 26 percent, according to the GlobalData research.

“Still, 32 percent of consumers don’t understand what it is,” Vierhile said. “It’s not an ingredient that is exactly on fire; 26 percent is quite low.”