Over the past year and a half, protein beverage consumers pretty much ran to the ready-to-mix protein powder hills from the ready-to-drink segment.1 Looking at the protein beverage category as a whole, RTD (ready-to-drink) protein sales have dipped and conversely, the RTM (ready-to-mix) side increased. Not only have menu incidences of protein powders increased2 according to Mintel, but they anticipate this category to continue to grow despite the stiff competition from other categories such as functional drinks.3
Subsequently, we asked our crystal ball, will consumers stay (with RTM protein) or will they go (back to RTD)? We flipped some tarot cards, called Miss Cleo and shook a Magic 8 ball (it said “Ask again later” Side eye emoji). Nothing.
Luckily more direction was provided from our in-house clairvoyants on the consumer understanding team.
We obviously don’t have a team of true clairvoyants. But we do have a duo of clever women who can find answers to consumer behaviors and preferences. This duo ran a “beast” of a study with protein beverage consumers. Fortunately, they don’t get analysis paralysis and noted a few surprising differences in behaviors, interests and preferences between males and females. We can’t give it all away but here are a few to get your gears going.
Protein Powder Insights
- Over 70% add protein powder to something besides protein shakes (such as yogurt or oatmeal)
- Men are more likely than women to be concerned about their daily protein consumption and track it to ensure they are getting enough
- Most often mix their powder with dairy milk
- Majority make their protein in a shaker bottle
- Find it extremely important that the protein they are purchasing makes them feel like they are making a good choice and it gives them energy
- Have more interest in coffee house-inspired protein powder flavors
- Know that protein is important and try to consume foods/beverages that are higher in protein, but they don’t track it.
- Use water the most to mix their protein beverages
- Are more likely to make it in a blender
- It is extremely important that their powder has no artificial ingredients, and aftertaste is top of mind
- More concerned about the protein source and protein content
- Are interested in chia seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds as plant protein sources
- Have more interest in breakfast-inspired and dessert protein powder flavors
Where Men & Women Agree
Commonalities popped up in these two groups as well. For example, over two-thirds of both groups consume protein beverages for breakfast. They agree on the top ingredients they do and do not want in protein shakes. They are both equally interested in plant protein powder and even a hybrid protein powder (part whey and part plant-based blend), with the majority of both groups wanting a 50/50 ratio of whey and plant-based.
What to do next?
Looking at different cuts of this data can bring new insights to light, provide direction or validation for product development. Perhaps we have a data cut or a nugget of information to help you on our next project together.
Let’s find a way to retain the customers you gained in the last year.
1. “RTM Protein Study,” Givaudan Primary Research, 2021
2. “Trending on US menus: juices, smoothies & shakes,” Mintel, https://clients.mintel.com/insight/trending-on-us-menus-juices-smoothies-shakes-2, accessed December 2021
3. “Sports and Performance Drinks – US – February 2021,” Mintel, https://reports.mintel.com/display/1040935/, accessed December 2021