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The end of the “high protein” food

New research by Datamonitor Consumer predicts the decline of the high protein trend will start within the next five years, but what does this mean for food and drink innovation in the future?

The trend for high protein has been riding high for the last few years, with food and drink innovation being dominated by “protein” variants, from breakfast cereal to salty snacks, and even bread. Datamonitor Consumer predicts an inevitable backlash within the next five years, as consumers become more aware of dangers of the diet for our health, especially as the majority already consume more than enough protein.

Focus on Fiber
Lack of fiber attributed to diets high in protein and low in carbohydrate can lead to digestive health problems, ranging from mild constipation through to colorectal cancer. These effects on digestive health are already starting to filter through among the biggest consumers of protein: young adults. According to Datamonitor Consumer’s recent global survey, younger consumers (aged 18-34) are most likely to be trying to consume “as much protein as possible,” and in turn are also the most likely to be currently concerned about constipation.
Melanie Felgate, senior analyst for Datamonitor Consumer, comments: “concerned young adults will be actively seeking out solutions to the problem, in the form of food and drink that is high in fiber, while aligning with their protein intake goals. The trend is already starting to gain momentum, with an increasing proportion of new food launches in recent years tagged as both high in protein and high in fiber.”
While consumers won’t immediately abandon their high protein diets, as digestive health problems become more apparent, Datamonitor Consumer anticipates that they will increasingly seek out protein sources which are also high in fiber.
Felgate continues: “Protein claims will continue to attract consumers in the immediate future, but we will soon start to see a shift towards innovation which combines the benefits of protein with fiber like Danone Activia’s Fiber Topper, a yogurt with a high fiber wheat bran cereal topper. Sources of protein will also change, as consumers switch to beans and pulses which naturally offer the benefits of fiber and protein in one.”

The end of the “diet cycle”
In the slightly longer-term future there will be a shift away from diets that single out specific food groups, whether “high protein” or “low fat” or “low carb.” Instead consumers will take a more “back to basics” approach to eating, seeking out natural, unprocessed whole foods which encompass a balance from all the major food groups.
According to Felgate: “in five years’ time, we will see many consumers move away from traditional fad diets. With conflicting information around the health benefits, or drawbacks, of fat, protein, and carbs (and sugar), consumers will go back to eating all food groups in moderation, but with more emphasis on eating foods as close to nature as possible, with minimal processing.

Brands must adapt to stay relevant
Food and drink brands must prepare for the inevitable high protein backlash, so they are ready to respond to the next big dietary trend and stay relevant.
Felgate suggests: “The onset of a more balanced and natural approach to eating means that packaged food and drink brands must reassess how they position and market their products. Terms like ‘raw’ and ‘natural’ will become much more appealing than ‘low fat’ or ‘high protein’.”

Further insights are available in Datamonitor Consumer’s recent publication “The Inevitable “High Protein” Backlash: When and What Next?”

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