Data was compiled by flavor manufacturer Comax Flavors by surveying 1,000 US consumers aged 18 and above earlier this year. The goal was to illustrate consumer behavior, usage, and attitudes toward nutrition and performance products that feature protein.
“Once reserved for athletes and heavily dominated by whey protein, the protein market across applications including protein powder, ready-to-drink (RTD) and bars is continually evolving,” said Catherine Armstrong, vice president of corporate communications for Cormax Flavors.
Citing data from Zion Market Research, the global sports nutrition market accounted for $28.37 billion in 2016 and is expected to hit $45.27 billion. “We wanted to better understand habits and usage among the general population in this market,” she added.
Here are some of the report’s highlights:
Powder buyers scrutinize formulations the most, bar buyers the least
The share of consumers who buy protein powder, ready-to-drink protein beverages, and protein bars were split evenly among total respondents with 33% for each.
But shoppers look at different things when they buy a protein powder from when they buy a protein bar. For powder buyers, taste and formula content seem equally important. For each attribute, 37% of respondents said they are important.
In comparison, taste was the most important factor for 52% of protein bar shoppers, with only 28% saying they actually paid attention to the product’s formula.
Making way for other formats
There are a number of brands peddling protein-filled cookies and chips—fairly new entrants to the protein space.
Of all 1,000 respondents, 32% said they eat protein cookies, and 21% said they eat protein chips. Among those who eat the cookies (321 respondents), 35% said they eat it 3-4 times per week, and 27% said they eat it 5-6 times per week.
As for protein chip eaters (217 respondents), 31% said they eat it every day, and 29% said they eat it 3-4 times per week.
Powder for muscle and strength, bars and RTD for convenient meals
Though protein fortification has branched out to reach mainstream consumers, with powders the purchase motivations still seem to be traditional gym rat-type reasons.
Respondents who buy protein powder say that their motivation is to build muscle (44%), increase energy (42%), repair muscle (36%), and increase strength (36%).
This contrasts with bars and ready-to-drink beverages, which many consumers buy for increased energy (43% RTD, 46% bars), convenience (40% RTD, 42% bars), and as a meal replacement (33% for both formats).
Berry, tropical flavors have a sizeable niche
Chocolate is the number one universally consumed flavor among all generations of respondents with 61% saying it’s their flavor of choice. Vanilla follows with 52% of all respondents.
But fans of other flavors make up a sizeable amount of ready-to-drink protein buyers. Berry was the flavor of choice for 29% of respondents, followed by coffee and pineapple (tied with 28%), with 22% favoring citrus flavor.