Acosta Sales & Marketing, a sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, recently released its latest industry research report, The Personalization of Protein. Amidst protein’s surge in popularity among Americans, this report explores how consumers are changing the ways they acquire their daily protein beyond traditional meat sources. It details protein purchasing trends, including interest in protein alternatives, and identifies the motivating factors behind shoppers’ decisions. The report also leverages this research to offer insightful recommendations on how CPG companies and retailers can best respond to consumers’ interest in protein.

“While protein has universally muscled its way into the top ranks of the American diet psyche, our research shows that for consumers, protein preferences are personal,” said Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President, Acosta. “More than ever, consumers are diversifying their daily sources of protein while also looking for quick, convenient products like protein bars and shakes. At the same time, many still need guidance in making smart choices, which provides a golden opportunity for CPGs and retailers to educate and attract shoppers.”

Alternative protein sources are in demand.

The playing field is becoming increasingly competitive as consumers look to sources other than meat for their daily protein intake.

  • Consumers cite nuts (64%) as the most popular replacement for meat protein, followed by beans/lentils (63%), dairy/eggs (56%), rice/pasta/quinoa (50%) and supplements like bars and shakes (21%).
  • More than 31% of shoppers indicated they purchased meat alternatives, such as tofu and texturized vegetable protein over the past year, with Millennials leading the charge at just over 50%.
  • Among all generations, cost is the primary driver behind buying less meat, followed by health and wellness. Boomers are the most cost conscious, while Silents (age 65+) and Millennials are the most health conscious.

Protein supplements are replacing traditional meals.

With busy, on-the-go lifestyles, consumers are increasingly likely to eat two traditional meals per day and use meal replacements or snacks to augment dietary needs.

  • Almost 50% of shoppers using protein shakes/bars use them as meal replacements at least one to two times per week.
  • Millennials use protein supplements as meal replacements most frequently, followed by Generation X, while the majority of Silents are not using them at all.
  • Since 2009, unit sales of protein supplements have doubled, reflecting consumers’ interest in health and fitness.

Consumers are confused about protein. While consumers cite protein as the most important nutrient for a healthy lifestyle, they need more education about its role in a healthy diet.

  • Thirty percent of shoppers have no idea of the recommended daily protein amounts for adults.
  • More than a quarter of shoppers are not sure if eating more protein makes you feel fuller, or stay fuller longer.
  • Sixty percent of Millennial shoppers, and only 48% of Silent shoppers, indicated they believe a person can achieve their necessary daily amount of protein without meat.

About 1/3 of healthy/organic shoppers are under age 35 according to AudienceSCAN data. 42% of these shoppers have children under age 10 at home so it’s likely they are looking for the right foods to give to their families. 31% of this audience told researchers they won’t comprise on quality to save money which is much higher than average. Marketers may be able to reach these audience members through food blogs. In the past year, these shoppers were 66% more likely than average consumers to start an online search because of what they read on a blog.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.