Consumer desire for protein (plant and animal) continues to trend upwards. According to new research from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) protein is the #1 nutrient consumers say they “try to consume,” ranking higher than Vitamin D, Vitamin C, fiber, and calcium.1
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that the majority of adults meet or exceed daily protein requirements.2 However, as discussed in the lead article, intriguing evidence indicates the RDA for protein is too low, especially for some sub-populations such as older individuals.3
The question is “why do consumers continue to prioritize protein consumption?” Insights from the United Soybean Board (USB) and IFIC may help answer this question.
- Protein’s (plant and animal) relative “health halo” status is likely a motivator and purchase driver. In the past fats and carbohydrates have been attacked, while protein has always been seen as an essential part of a healthy diet. USB research found that 82% of consumers agree that protein is an extremely/very important part of a healthy diet,4 and 3 out of 4 said they would be more likely to purchase foods labeled as containing “high quality protein.”5
- Plant-based foods, including soy-based meat alternatives, are growing in popularity. The Good Food Institute reported that plant-based food retail sales grew 27% between 2019 and 2020, and reached $7.4 billion in 2021.6 In another example demonstrating the popularity of soy-based meat, Trader Joe’s top vegan/vegetarian pick for 2022 is soy-based chorizo. Variety drives consumers to experience new foods, so while consumers might not be giving up meat and dairy, they may be adding plant-based foods (and protein) to their shopping carts.
- 2022 IFIC data shows nearly 1 in 3 consumers report eating more protein from whole-plant sources and nearly 1 in 5 say they are eating more protein from fortified soy-based milks and yogurts compared to a year ago.1
These insights can serve as a guide for counseling those you advise. If clients and patients are looking for ways to increase protein consumption, plant-based foods that offer high-quality protein like soymilk, tofu, soy-based burgers, and edamame can deliver more options.
- International Food Information Council. 2022 Food & Health Survey. 18 May 2022. https://foodinsight.org/2022-food-and-health-survey/
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov
- Traylor DA, Gorissen SHM, Phillips SM. Perspective: Protein requirements and optimal intakes in aging: Are we ready to recommend more than the recommended daily allowance? Adv Nutr 2018;9:171-82.
- USB Soy Protein & Flexitarian Study, July 2021
- USB Q4 Consumer Soy Omnibus Study, September 2021
- GFI, 2021 U.S. Retail Market Insights, Plant-based Foods, March 2022: https://gfi.org/marketresearch/