“The demand for protein in general has been at double digit growth rates,” said Michael Hiron, VP of sales for Milk Specialties Global, who spoke with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA. “The primary demand has always been for whey protein, but there seems to be a growing demand for milk proteins as well.”
There is no shortage of opportunity in the market. Euromonitor estimates that the global market for sports nutrition products in 2016 stood at $11.9 billion, and grew by $1.2 billion through the course of the year. A full 82% of that value was for protein products, the market research company said. The growth was highest in North America, followed by Western Europe, Australia, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa.
Different digestion profiles keeps niche open
Hiron said the different digestion profiles of the dairy proteins, with whey digesting quickly and whole milk or fractionated caseins digesting more slowly, means there will always be a functional niche for milk proteins. In addition, the protein is free from the vicissitudes of the cheese markets.
“We see that dairy proteins have very good satiety effects,” he said.
Among the opportunities for milk proteins in sports nutrition are ready-to-drink (RTD) protein beverages as well as in nutrition bars. Protein powders still clearly dominate the market in terms of share, but RTDs are gaining with a higher growth rate. Euromonitor’s figures show that sports nutrition RTDs grew at a 15% CAGR in the 2011-2016 time frame, while powders grew at 12% and bars grew at 11% in the same period.
Hiron attributed to the growth in RTDs to the product’s on-the-go attractiveness and the ability to sell them in many different venues, including places like gas stations. And he said the products fit into an overall market trend, that being the ‘snackification’ of nutrition.