Each chocolate gem contains a blend of pea protein isolate and milk protein concentrate. A 57g bag, which is one serving, contains 10g of protein, 32g of carbohydrates, and 29g of sugar.
“Our intention was to create a better-for-you option than what you traditionally find in the candy aisle or check-out counters in grocery and convenience stores,” Tyler McCann, director of product management, told NutraIngredients-USA.
Protein, and the benefits of consuming a high protein diet, continue to gain positive awareness, he added.
“We identified this as an opportunity to leverage our position as a leading sports nutrition brand to bring innovation to a category (candy) that everyone is familiar with, but do so with a more clean-label approach than the traditional brands in this space,” McCann said.
The product launch follows recent trends in sports nutrition product development—moving away from bulk supplement containers in powder or capsule forms and moving closer to single-serve snacks and beverages.
Will sports nutrition shoppers buy candy?
With 29 g of sugar per serving, the Protein Candies have more sugar per serving than many of the popular protein snacks on the market, which range between 10g to 15g of sugar. It does, however, have less sugar than chocolate snacks like M&Ms (the Milk Chocolate variety has 31 g of sugar in a 47.8 pack).
“We knew going into the candy space that taste was going to be extremely important,” McCann said.
“Consumers buy candy with certain assumptions in mind and we found in the R&D process that over-engineering the formulation was not as favorably perceived within our focus groups.”
The company also decided against sugar alcohols, which do not appear as sugar in a Nutrition or Supplements Facts panel, because some consumers associate them with gastrointestinal distress.
While many sports nutrition buyers, especially the hardcore ones, may be turned off by high calories and sugar per serving, MusclePharm’s Protein Candies protein content is unbeatable for products of its kind.
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“Our proposition here is that we are offering a better-for-you option versus the traditional offerings within this space,” McCann said.
“This product is intended not only for the traditional sports nutrition buyer, but rather all consumers.”
Protein bar category is saturated
The reason the sports nutrition company is betting on a candy product is partly because of the oversaturated bar space, McCann said.
“The competitive landscape for protein bars continues to become more saturated and harder to differentiate from all of the bars on the shelf,” he added.
“We saw [this candy] as an attractive opportunity to pursue because it is something that has never been done before.”
READ MORE: Who shops for sports nutrition products at the c-store?
GNC distribution partnership
GNC is the first retailer to carry MusclePharm’s Protein Candies, which launched exclusively with the retailer last week. “We are told that the product is moving exceptionally well in the early going at GNC,” McCann said.
“I think our early success with this product is an indication that consumers are eager and willing to support innovation in categories that break outside the traditional norm. MusclePharm Protein Candies was our attempt to blend the worlds of sports nutrition and protein with convenience and candy.”
Ryan Drexler, CEO of MusclePharm, said: “We're very excited about the early success and positive reviews and couldn’t be more pleased to partner with GNC as the launch destination for the Protein Candies.
“As the leading global brand of health and wellness products, GNC shares the same strategic vision to capitalize on emerging trends in better for you, convenient snacking."
Along with the Protein Candies, MusclePharm released seven other protein snacks with GNC last week, including the USDA-certified Organic plant-based protein bars as well as Protein Crisp Bars.