Performance Nutrition Moves to Mainstream

The "everyday health seeker" is embracing added protein and health-specific ingredients in the foods and beverages they already enjoy 

KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • The mainstream wellness consumer wants better-for-you foods, but not at the expense of taste, texture or flavour.
  • Protein has become a healthy ingredient superstar, driving appeal and the mainstreaming of performance nutrition products.
  • Fortifying with protein, including plant-based protein—has gained broad consumer acceptance.
  • Other health-specific ingredients, especially those targeted for immune and digestive health, are also seeing strong growth in everyday foods and beverages.
  • Ingredient innovations make it easier than ever to fortify shakes, bars, bites and even waters.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

In the 1970s and 80s, the traditional performance nutrition consumer was likely to be a serious athlete or bodybuilder looking for protein fortification to maintain and build muscle mass. The consumer was more likely to be male, the setting was typically in a locker room, the ritual was built around a scoop of protein powder, and the focus was on scientific claims and technical and performance measurements.

Fast forward to today, and the category lines for performance nutrition have blurred and stretched across a whole host of new consumers, occasions and food and beverage formats.


Over the last decade, the performance nutrition industry has been completely transformed to meet the needs of the new wellness consumer: the “everyday health seeker”. This is an attitudinal target versus a demographic one, appealing to consumers united by a desire to take active, small steps towards a healthier lifestyle in a balanced way, including through foods and beverages fortified to provide extra health benefits.


Protein: A Key Ingredient to a Healthy Lifestyle

So, what are everyday health seekers looking for? Protein, for one thing. The protein trend has been around for years now and shows no sign of slowing down. This is thanks in part to the “sportification” of protein—where mainstream brands fortify with protein and tap into the positive associations of sport to boost their “better-for you” positioning.


Kerry research indicates that the key driver and motivation for consumers to choose protein-packed products is to “support a healthy lifestyle”—not to boost performance. In addition, protein appeals as an aid for weight loss and as an energy booster, among other health considerations.


Also contributing to protein’s draw is the fact that consumers experience less guilt around snacking when they eat protein-rich snacks, perhaps linked to the (somewhat mistaken) perception that protein will help them achieve their body aspirations—even without exercise.


Manufacturers are working double-time to release products that appeal to this growing consumer base. According to Mintel GNPD, there was a fourfold global increase in new food and beverage product launches claiming “high protein” between 2012 and 2017.


Protein powders and shakes still hit the mark, but the category has grown to include juices, bites, nutrition bars, protein waters and more. Consumers want healthier snacks that are nutritionally balanced, convenient, portable and taste great; the options entering the market are suited for a variety of mainstream occasions and snacking needs across the day.


And, critically for manufacturers, consumers are prepared to pay more for high protein foods.


Plant-Based Protein: The New Consumer Choice

As consumers become more knowledgeable about food source and interested in sustainability, they are becoming more selective about the type of protein they consume. Demand for plant-based protein is accelerating, and it’s likely to continue as the preference for dairy-free, lactose-free and more sustainably produced products gathers momentum.


In the coming years, across all regions, you can expect to see more vegan protein shakes, vegan protein waters and juices hit the market as consumers move away from dairy and collagen protein sources toward protein derived from peas, rice and oats.


Delivering a plant-based protein product in certain applications can be challenging. For example, in protein-fortified low-ph beverages challenges include sedimentation, cloudiness and the need for stabilizers. To address these, Kerry recently launched ProDiem™ Refresh, a vegan, allergen-free, clear, soluble and clean label protein developed to provide good taste and protein fortification in the fast-growing low-ph protein beverage segment.


Other Health-Specific Ingredients: Accelerating Demand and Innovation
As protein fortification becomes more mainstream, manufactures are increasingly looking at key health and wellness need spaces. Global Data research indicates that 73% of consumers take supplements at least once a week. However, consumers are beginning to seek out products enhanced with even more better-for-you ingredients. Research suggests 79% of consumers would prefer to get health enhancing-ingredients through food and beverages, and innovation in the ingredient space means it easier than ever to incorporate these into items including nutritional bars, drinks, teas and snack products. This, in part, explains why the functional food and beverages category is growing at a rate faster than traditional supplements.

Two of the fastest growing performance nutrition segments are dedicated to improving immunity and digestive health. Manufacturers are creating a growing number of immune health products designed to appeal to children and families, athletes and the aging populations. Wellmune®, Kerry’s brand in immune health, is a natural food, beverage and supplement ingredient clinically proven to strengthen the immune system and support and maintain overall physical health. It’s designed for use in a range of applications such as bars, yogurts, juices, smoothies, energy drinks, nutritional shakes, capsules, tablets and gummies.

In the digestive health space, probiotics are incredibly popular and innovation  is driving wider application.  GanedenBC30® (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086), a probiotic new to the Kerry portfolio, is found in over 900 leading food and beverage products around the world. What sets GanedenBC30 apart is its versatility—GanedenBC30 does not require refrigeration, which means it can be formulated into virtually any product that is baked, boiled or frozen, such as bars, teas, cereals and snacks.

Whether you have an established presence in the performance or positive nutrition space or are looking for an opportunity to enter the market, we can help. To learn more about our insights on the everyday health seeker or our product line, contact Kerry.

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