Natural Products Insider

JUL-AUG 2019

INSIDER is the leading information source for marketers, manufacturers and formulators of dietary supplements, healthy foods and cosmeceuticals. Since 1997, INSIDER has been serving the needs of the global nutrition industry.

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22 INSIDER July /August 2019 sucralose and saccharin sales both fell 6% and aspartame sales slid 8%. As with artificial sweeteners, one of the criticisms of stevia has been taste. However, McHugh noted advances in stevia technology and flavors with modulating properties that mask off-notes have helped the taste of stevia-sweetened products. However, the sports nutrition protein product segment has been slow to adopt stevia and other alternatives in all areas. For instance, INSIDER's review of the top-selling RTM protein powder products on and revealed only one product on each list was sweetened with stevia, while the rest were sweetened mostly with the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium (Ace K); a few relied on or included sucralose. These top-selling lists were primarily whey- or dairy-based proteins. A similar review of the top-selling plant protein powders on both websites found almost all were sweetened with some form of stevia or other natural sweeteners. For protein beverages, the sweeteners were mixed. Many of the top-selling such beverages on Amazon used stevia, monk fruit, agave, honey and cane sugar; only a few used Ace K or sucralose. Legacy sports nutrition brands tended to use artificial sweeteners, especially if they had a top-selling protein powder featuring the same sweeteners. Newer sports nutrition brands and those with crossover appeal more frequently used natural alternatives. The core bodybuilding segment may be fine with artificial sweeteners, but the broader sports nutrition and protein markets seem to be trending to more natural alternatives, leaving legacy brands with potentially less crossover appeal. A similar dichotomy is found in protein bars, as well-established sports nutrition bars tend to feature artificial sweeteners such sucralose, according to INSIDER's review of's best-selling protein bars. There are exceptions, as category leader Quest Nutrition has bars sweetened with stevia. Over at Amazon, the top protein bars include Quest (with stevia) as well as mainstream-sports crossover brands such as Luna, Rx Bar and gomacro, many of which feature natural-derived sweeteners, including stevia, sugar alcohols, cane sugar, coconut sugar and dates. While protein powders, bars and drinks may purposefully keep carbohydrates (i.e., sugar) calories low, especially amidst the current keto diet explosion, high-protein foods and snacks may face more challenges doing so. Among the high-protein food and snacks hitting the market in droves, baked goods often include cane sugar for its baking-friendly structural properties. Still, some stevia products are available in a "baking sugar" form. Clean Label One way that high-protein baked products—cookies, pancakes, muffins and brownies are popular—can differentiate is by using organic cane sugar and brown rice syrup. Because organic certification rejects artificial ingredients and potentially harmful agricultural chemicals, many consumers see organic ingredients as clean label. McHugh said clean label is no longer a trend, but an expectation. Innova Market Insights reported an uptick of about 30% between 2013 and 2017 in the use of clean label claims touting no preservatives, artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, non-GMO and natural. This is only one aspect of clean label, which generally means shorter ingredient lists with recognizable names. Innova Market Insights reported 91% of U.S. consumers believe foods with recognizable ingredients are healthier. Depending on the formulation, sports nutrition products like protein powders and foods can struggle to keep ingredient lists short, but "cleaning up" the types of ingredients used can go a long way to tapping into these trends. Using natural sweeteners is one method, as is avoiding the use of proprietary blends. McHugh said more brands are referring to their products as "clean protein," "clean performance" and "clean energy." "Sucralose and colors like Red #40 are common in sports nutrition products, but several brands I spoke with have transitioned or are transitioning to natural sweeteners, colors and flavors," she noted. In the realm of protein ingredients, the nomenclature is what it is—protein, whether plant or animal, tends to be either isolates or concentrates. However, even whey companies have sought to differentiate by using organic, grass-fed or "native" versions, which resonate with some core and crossover sports nutrition consumers. Kneller said while there is money to be made catering to consumers—including vegans—who may want or need organic, kosher or similar certifications, this market also is becoming crowded. Plant Proteins One area where vegetarians and vegans are not alone is in the growing demand for plant protein products. Many athletes and consumers see plant proteins as cleaner and healthier. The global plant protein market should grow at a 7% CAGR and reach $7.5 billion by 2024, according to Mordor Intelligence, which noted North America accounts for just under 40% of this market. The market research firm noted the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has reported 90% of food allergies are caused by eggs, milk, fish, red meat, soy and nuts. "The demand for plant proteins is growing at a fast rate, owing to change in lifestyle, lack of balanced dietary intake and improved R&D [research and development], in order to develop new kinds of plant-protein-enriched products," Mordor noted, in its recent report on the plant protein market. This leaves a door open for plants such as pea and rice, which have driven the plant protein sports nutrition market in recent years. Among the top-selling plant proteins at Amazon and, pea and rice proteins are the most common sources. Other plant sources surfacing in sports nutrition protein products include quinoa, chia, garbanzo, lentils, cranberry seed, artichoke, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, alfalfa, hemp and sacha inchi, a nut heralded by the Incas. Another growing plant protein source is a tree nut. Almond milk and butter have become popular in food and beverage products, but almond protein powder is ripe for use in sports nutrition products. Stephanie Doan, senior R&D food scientist, Blue Diamond Almonds, said almond protein powder delivers about Sports Nutrition: Protein Powders

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