Protein remains a key ingredient for food and beverage manufacturers looking to capitalize on trends in the marketplace. Consumers associate a number of positive attributes with protein consumption and food manufacturers are responding, said Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director for Canadean.

“We are seeing a lot of protein innovation,” Mr. Vierhile said Oct. 7, during a session at the SupplySide West conference and trade show. “Protein consumption tends to skew young, with younger consumers saying they are trying to consume more protein.”

Mr. Vierhile noted the popularity of protein is related to the health halo that hovers over it.

“Protein gets a pass as far as its relation to weight and obesity issues,” he said. “Very few people believe protein consumption leads to weight gain despite the fact a calorie is a calorie.”

He added that the future looks bright for the producers of plant-based proteins.

“The rise in those (consumers) interested in vegan products or a low-meat diet are likely to fuel future gains,” he said.

Canadean conducted a survey that included consumers from around the world and asked them to evaluate 100 different ingredients and express whether they had a positive, negative or neutral perception of the ingredients. The study is not set to be released until November, but Mr. Vierhile gave attendees of the education session a preview.

“Consumers feel good about sprouted grains and seeds, with 70% saying it has a positive impact on health,” he said. “This has led to further innovation, with new products in oatmeal, tofu, flour and milk alternatives.”

While journalists like to write about the potential insects hold in food and beverage product development, Mr. Vierhile said consumers have little love for the use of insects as an ingredient.

“Percentages are more negative than positive,” he said. “I guess what you could say is there is a lot of room for upward movement.”

Protein also is showing up in non-traditional products as manufacturers attempt capitalize on consumer interest. New products Mr. Vierhile highlighted in his presentation included a beer with 7 grams of protein, a salad dressing with whey protein added, coconut water with whey, and a sausage flavored spaghetti that featured soy as a protein source.

Despite all of the positives around protein, Mr. Vierhile did say there are some negatives.

“Protein consumption is already very high,” he said. “People in the U.S. are not lacking for the nutrient and people may want to ask what kind of consequences can overconsumption have? It can affect digestive health, kidney health and bone health. It is definitely something companies need to consider as they move forward.”