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The rise of protein drinks for ordinary people

But there’s now a wave of products where the branding marks a departure from the traditional world of the protein supplement.

The classic protein drinks have usually been characterised by displays of over-sized bottles and tubs, often with labels depicting rippling torsos. The powders and bars targeted hardcore gym-goers and amateur athletes.

The typical customer was someone who wanted to build muscle and aid recovery after a serious workout. But the latest generation is positioned more around healthy lifestyle.

In the UK, a “high protein dairy drink” called Upbeat is the latest product to get a big marketing push. It follows the path blazed by For Goodness Shakes, a drink primarily aimed at gym-goers and athletes that was picked up by a wider pool of buyers.

Similar lifestyle protein products can be seen in the US on the shelves of the likes of Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Walgreens, and CVS.

But there’s an elephant in the room. People in the West usually already get more than enough protein.

Healthy protein intake depends on weight, with a recommended intake figure of 0.8g per kg of weight per day often cited. Age is also a factor. Over the course of a day, the average man should be eating around 55g of protein, while a woman needs 45g, says the British Dietetic Association. In the US, the national public health body, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends 56g for an average man and 45g for a woman…..

So what is behind the appearance of the ever-expanding range of protein supplements?

An “extreme” group of athletes working out in gyms were the pioneers for the supplements’ popularity, says Chris Schmidt, a research analyst at market research firm Euromonitor International.

The idea was that muscles damaged during intense weight training could be repaired and developed by turning dried and concentrated whey, a by-product of cheese-making, into a drink. These shakes were seen as more efficient and convenient than having to eat large amounts of high-protein foods.

Only a handful of specialist shops sold the powder and new customers were often found by targeting their personal trainers.

“In the early days they were very much associated with body building. Until the late 90s very few people outside that high performance athletic community had heard of them,” says Schmidt.

The bodybuilders were followed by professional athletes, then amateur and college athletes.

“They turned into these lifelong users and that was a big part of what broke the stigma, because a guy from across the street used it, not some Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding guy,” says Schmidt.

As more people take an interest in their wellbeing – exercising more and eating more healthily – demand for protein rich products has continued to grow, says Schmidt.

The large tubs still exist, but more convenient ready-mixed shakes are now widely available, along with snack bars and flapjacks. Whey powders have also been joined by other protein sources including casein, hemp and rice.

The combined result has been a sharp increase in sales. According to Euromonitor figures worldwide sales of sports-related protein products grew from £2.5bn in 2007 to £4.9bn in 2012 and are likely to reach £7.8bn in 2017. In the UK sales increased from £73m in 2007 to £170m in 2012 and are expected to reach £358m by 2017.

And the most notable part of the growth is the shift to marketing to “ordinary” people. Among new shakes is Wing-Co, a chocolate-flavoured high-protein drink aimed as a snack alternative for men in their 30s and 40s who “aren’t sucked in by lots of marketing rubbish“…..

BBC News: Read the full article

Related reading:

UK: Pioneering fresh whey protein drink

2012: the year that protein reaches its tipping point?

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