Snacks: The Protein Mystery

Despite abundance of options, consumers remain clueless about their daily protein needs

By  Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

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To many consumers, getting that daily protein fix is like a riddle wrapped in an enigma—many are clueless about how much protein they actually need.

Convenience-store retailers and their food-company partners think they have some solutions: Forget the riddle wrapped in an enigma; how about meat snacks or jerky wrapped in a 3.25-ounce package of 12 grams of lean protein?

According to becomehealthynow.com, the average adult requires 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. A consumer can eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and net 19.6 grams. Wash it down with a 12-ounce can of beer—OK, work with us—and that fetches another 10 grams.

And while they don’t know how much they need, consumers continue to demand types of protein other than traditional center-of-plate lunch and dinner options. Much of this is fueled by the trend toward on-the-run consumption and mini-meals throughout the day.

“You have animal protein, eggs, dairy and cereal, which are all household staples,” says Darren Siefer, a food and beverage industry analyst for Port Washington, N.Y.-based The NPD Group. “At a retailer with so many snacking options in the store, you have to wave your hands in the air and say, ‘We’re over here, too.’ The challenge is getting noticed among the surrounding protein sources in large categories and household staples.”

Siefer told Convenience Store Products that consumers often just wing it with protein intake, never sure if they are getting their daily share. “Seventy-one percent of primary grocery shoppers are not up to speed on the daily amounts of protein needed,” says Siefer. “But the interesting thing is that a lot of people actually meet or exceed the daily recommended value—and don’t know it. They look at their food and say, ‘Here’s an 8-ounce steak; this the protein I need for this meal occasion.’ ”

Hello, meat snacks: Statistics from Nielsen indicate that the household penetration of the product is only 25%, offering a huge market for retailers and suppliers to take advantage of. To get momentum going, Minong, Wis.-based Jack Link’s has created a variety of retail programs around healthy snacking, with protein communication at the forefront. Its Smart Snacking display rolled out during first-quarter 2014 places a finer point on healthy eating, but is also designed to communicate protein values, says Kevin Papacek, director of marketing for the company.

“Smart Snacking tries to keep health top of mind with consumers,” says Papacek. “Protein is always spelled out front and center on our packaging as well.”

The company recently reformulated its turkey jerky line with a package tweak, plus a new color scheme so it stands out from other core products. “It has changed some perceptions where more people now perceive our turkey jerky as a lean source of protein,” Papacek says.

CONTINUED: Day-Part Decisions

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