Protein Trends: Sports & Active Nutrition

December 11, 2019 (Wed)

According to data available through Euromonitor the sports nutrition segment is valued at USD 11.9 billon, with the largest chunk of that market in North America; roughly 70% of the market. The top three fastest growing product segments, as determined by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) are Sports Protein Products (9.0%), Probiotic Supplements (8.6%) and Supplemental Nutrition Drinks (7.8%). 

Currently the base customer is expanding in this segment moving from elite athletes to millennials (21-34 y/o) and baby boomers (50 – 64 y/o). The latter two segments are learning and adopting behaviors from the elite athletes as the benefits of exercise and body movement become more mainstream. They want to emulate how they’re eating and snacking, and this translates into the foods AMCO Proteins’ product developers and marketing teams bring our ingredients to market.


When it comes to consumer food trends that fit this market segments there are a two staple categories:


-          High Protein Shakes

-          High Protein Bars


Both product categories continue to grow, and are also simultaneously experiencing makeovers. Shakes are being formulated with more protein, less sugar and other functional ingredients added such as dietary fibers and better-for-you fats (i.e. medium-chain triglycerides). There’s also the incorporation of plant-based proteins, but developmentally they still offer some challenges (such as overcoming flavor and texture objections). Companies have overhauled and redeveloped flagship products to include more protein, less sugar, added fiber and much more. Furthermore, bar companies are now offering uniquely developed protein bars that are crispy and wafer-like, offering the end-user a Kit-Kat-like eating experience. AMCO Proteins helps to fuel this development by ensuring and testing that specific functionalities are met. For example, in order to attain the wafer-like texture of these bars we need proteins have excellent fat binding properties, which we can manipulate during processing.


There’s also been a sharp rise in products that feature milk protein concentrate and isolates (MPC and MPI respectively). Milk protein concentrate/isolate (MPC/MPI) is a concentrated (at least 80% protein) or an isolated (at least 90% protein) form of milk protein via a process called ultrafiltration. During this process excess fluid, fats and carbs are either evaporated and/or filtered out leaving unadulterated milk protein. The benefit of this process is that when you create the MPC/MPI in either liquid or via spray drying, it retains the same ratio of casein to whey as one would find in traditional fluid milk: 80% casein and 20% whey. From a biological perspective this is ideal for many reasons:


·         Milk as a stand-alone protein is nutritionally complete, high quality and very bioavailable

·         MPC/MPI are naturally low in lactose due to the ultrafiltration, making it easier on the stomach for those with sensitivities to dairy or dairy sugars

·         Casein is well known for being a slow-to-digest protein and provides a sustained delivery of amino acids to the body

·         Whey is well known for being a quick-to-digest protein that is quickly, easily and readily absorbed by the body 

·         Proteins, especially dairy proteins, are known for aiding in the biological feeling of satiety, or fullness

·         MPC and MPI tend to be cold-processed which means more native proteins (as opposed to denatured)


When looking at other trends in the sports nutrition space we see sweet & savory innovations like brownies, cookies, cakes, crisps and even flatbread chips. Some big brands have invested in expanding their product offering to include not only flagship protein bars, but also cookies, chips and cake bites. Other companies have launched lines of baked goods fortified with dairy proteins offering items like cookies. AMCO Proteins has been helping serve the food industry with these trends by launching two functional ingredients: BakePLUS and SnackPLUS. BakePLUS is designed to replace a portion of wheat flour in baking formulations, and SnackPLUS is a protein designed to be applied topically to snacks, with the potential to add 6g or more protein per serving.  


A really new innovation is offering foods in bite-sized options. Popular protein bar brands have launched an entire line dedicated to “protein bites.” These bites are fortified with milk protein concentrate, which lends itself to shelf-stable protein bites. This unique innovation may seem trivial, but its stroke of genius lies in that it allows the user to control how much they eat and when. The consumer is not forced to eat a whole package, such as a bar or bag of chips, but rather, can have what they want when they want. It may be a simple innovation, but it’s causing waves in the industry. AMCO Proteins offers products such as CMP-GP, our most versatile milk protein concentrate, that’s been featured in novel high protein cake bites and frozen low-fat ice cream products.


When analyzing the sports nutrition market there is a disproportional amount of products based on whey protein, mainly due to the well documented ability to aid in muscle synthesis and repair post heavy-load work (and also due to its relative ease in product formulation). There are also supplements built on casein that are designed as “overnight protein delivery systems,” but they’re hard to find and are typically manipulated caseins such as calcium or sodium caseinate. Developers that choose to formulate with MPC and MPI are giving their end-users not only the benefit of the whey protein component, but also the staying power and long-term delivery of amino acids from the casein (as opposed to caseinates, heavily used as “casein supplements”). MPC & MPI are literally a dream protein for sports nutrition products that are biologically complete and easy to work into formulations – and we expect to see a rise in use in years to come.


When it comes to product innovation, often the best ideas come from the consumers themselves. In the cases mentioned above the innovation was driven by what the consumer wanted: ask and ye shall receive. As food scientists and product developers we can have the best ideas in the world, but without a market to purchase the product, it’s just an idea. As millennials continue to drive the food industry forward, holding us accountable to things like environmental responsibility to knowing the source and supply of ingredients, AMCO Proteins expects to see nothing but greatness in our march forward to better and healthier products for the sports nutrition segment of the food industry.





1.        Difference between milk protein and whey protein ingredients; ADPI