Across the Western world, interest in protein-enriched foods and beverages is blossoming. No longer just the preserve of bodybuilders and athletes, it has broadened its appeal to everyday consumers. Awareness of dietary protein in the US is particularly high, with nearly six out of 10 Americans considering protein when selecting foods.

Some of the best-selling food and drink products of recent years in the US have strongly promoted high protein content. These include Nature Valley Protein snack bars, launched in 2012, along with a plethora of other mainstream snack-bar brands shifting to a protein platform. The explosion of Greek yogurt in the US, and increasingly internationally, is also largely built on its high-protein positioning.

Protein imbues a healthy “feel good” factor to food with its association with power and energy. It appeals to men on the muscle-building front as well as increasingly to women on a satiety front.

As well as a booming US market, there are signs that the interest in protein is already building in Europe. The high-protein Dukan Diet, for example, reportedly has 10 million followers in France. Yogurt products in Europe, including Greek yogurt brands, are also increasingly talking about protein. For example, London-based Danio Greek yogurts were launched in 2013 with a prominent high-protein front-of-pack claim.

High protein as a claim in new launches of bread is small scale in comparison to the snack bar or yogurt segments and, on a global basis, is not growing in use. However, recent buzz accompanying some of the latest launches suggests there is more potential, especially in the European market where most of the recent activity has occurred.

In the US, “high in protein” as an attribute of influence in bread purchasing is approaching that of high in fiber with 60% of consumers rating the former as an influencing attribute vs. 75% the latter. Given the relatively low level of bread introductions making high-protein claims in the US, this is significant and reflects the growing interest in protein in general in the market. 

The interest in high-protein breads in the US does not drop off significantly with age as it does in other categories using protein claims such as snack bars. This makes bread one of the more effective product formats to target high protein content to older consumers.

Many of the new US products with a high-protein claim have combined high-fiber and high-protein messaging, building on the long-term consumer appeal that high fiber content has demonstrated. Indeed, launches of 5/5 products (5 g fiber per serving, 5 g protein per serving) started to appear a few years ago, although many recent new items are using higher amounts of protein than just 5 g. High-fiber and high-protein ancient grains, which are also gluten-free and thus very much “on-trend” such as spelt, chia or quinoa, have been used in some cases.

The Energus 10 brand launched in France, meanwhile, contains 22 g protein per 100 g of bread. It has achieved listings at mainstream retailers and is promoted as a rich source of protein comparable to meat. As with many new high-protein and high-fiber breads coming onto the market, it is also promoting the inclusion of omega fatty acids and low carbohydrate content.

Indeed, the combination of fiber, protein and omega-3 in a low-carb-­positioned bread product looks to be an increasingly powerful proposition that health-conscious consumers are likely to be very receptive to. Furthermore, it is a proposition that can be achieved through the increasing use of added seeds and grains to deliver superior ­nutritional properties.