Ingredients R&D / Industry News

Shoppers are biting when the package says protein

When General Mills Inc. wanted to introduce two new bars to its stable of snacks, it chose the same word to make them sell: protein.

Protein is the buzzword that is helping sell many kinds of foods. Food companies are placing more prominent protein labels on packaging and adding protein to such products as drinks, bars and cereals.

General Mills Protein is demonstrating that it’s a powerful marketing tool. "It's one of those rare things that has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people, and they are all positive," says Barry Calpino, vice president of breakthrough innovation for Kraft Foods Group Inc., which sells products from Velveeta to Planters Nuts.

An office worker seeks an energizing snack at 4 p.m. while a weight lifter sees protein as a way to build muscle. They see it as healthy, according to consumer research from several large food companies including Kraft, Kellogg Co. and General Mills.

A label that says protein has what researchers call a "health halo effect," that goes beyond just the promise of protein. When people see the word, they also believe the product will make them feel full or give them energy.

But do we need more protein in our diets? Health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the average meat-loving American actually eats more protein than is needed, which adds to the daily caloric intake. (U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines recommend the average adult get 10% to 35% of calories from protein.)

Food companies see the protein movement as part of a larger trend in which consumers increasingly are considering their health when choosing foods and not a fad.


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