Sønderhøj, DenmarkA majority of mainstream consumers preferr protein-dense foods for active nutrition. That's according to a global study, conducted byArla Food Ingredients. Researchers set out to better understand consumer purchasing habits around sports andactive nutrition. Arla Food Ingredients established three consumer categories  varying on the topics of exercise, nutrition, and protein.

Findings: 43% of the 12,000 consumers said they look for added protein for exercise, rising to 52% for those aged 18-29. Furthermore, the interest in protein is increasing. Three in 10 (31%) had increased their use in the past two years; only 7% decreased their use.

Active Nutrition: Going Mainstream

“Now that the sports nutrition has moved into the mainstream, it has become increasingly important for manufacturers in this category to understand consumer attitudes to exercise, nutrition, and key ingredients such as protein," said Troels Nørgaard Laursen, Director of Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients, in a press release. "We have been able to identify three distinct consumer types, giving some useful pointers in how producers can promote protein to these different segments.”

Anne Høst Stenbæk, Head of Marketing at Arla Foods Ingredients, added: “A high proportion ofEnthusiastssay they make a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet and they choose food to improve their athletic performance. They are willing to give up on both taste and convenience to get there, so for them it’s all about functionality. In contrast,Easy Healthconsumers agree that an active lifestyle is very important in contributing to overall health, but this group is not willing to compromise on taste, so manufacturers would do well to target them differently."

In addition, Stenbæk concluded: “And while those in the third group – Healthy Feel Goods – are not focused on exercise, their interest in nutrition is high, perhaps higher than those in the other groups. They are highly receptive to documented health claims. So, focusing on protein’s health benefits as a super ingredient is a good strategy for manufacturers. This group does not necessarily look for food which is directly linked to being active. But they do show a strong interest in protein for things like energy, weight management, and mental energy.”

Findings on Active Consumers:

  • Enthusiasts. Exercised 3x or more per week and often chose foods to enhance athletic performance. Enthusiasts scored above average in many areas. 93% had a very high interest in protein, and 60% actively search for added-protein sports nutrition products
  • "Easy Health" Consumers. Active, interested in nutrition and trends, but not willing to sacrifice taste.
  • Healthy Feel Goods. Did not focus on exercise, but cared about diet. This group prefers drinkable products such as smoothies, waters, and kefir. They believe in the health benefits (59%) and want beverages that add vitamins and nutrients to their overall diet (56%).
In conclusion, high-protein foods were a preference in all groups of consumers interested in active nutrition.

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