Business ideas for 2015: Protein products

As interest in health and wellbeing ramps up, the growing protein market offers exciting prospects for budding food and drink entrepreneurs in 2015…

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Sports-related nutrition is big business. According to Euromonitor International, the UK’s sports food and drink market; excluding energy products such as Lucozade and Red Bull, is now worth over £301m – a figure which is expected to rise to £471m by 2018 and this increase in demand isn’t restricted to Britain either.

On a global scale, reports estimate that the protein product sector will inflate to sales of £8bn by 2017 which marks 2015 as the perfect time for those with an interest in protein products to capitalise on the booming market opportunities before the sector becomes overcrowded.

Starting a protein product company: Why it’s a good business idea

From protein bars to drinks, supplements and even cupcakes and ice creams, protein products are no longer limited to the diets of hardcore athletes and bodybuilders and have now entered the mainstream. There is a growing trend of protein rich products for the “ordinary person” as a convenient way to add missing protein, boost health and support exercise routines.

The rise in “protein princesses” – women that use protein to tone and “shred” to get the ultimate bikini bodies – and the growing social acceptance of female bodybuilders also lends itself to this trend with protein products now increasingly marketable for both men and women looking to achieve health and fitness goals.

Starting a protein product business offers the chance to maximise on the recent viral growth of concepts such as “strong not skinny”, “fit not thin” and “fitspiration” which have garnered millions of followers and posts on social media with enthusiasts sharing images of their protein shakes and foods along with nutrition advice and body images. The fast-growth of two year-old start-up LDNMuscle demonstrates this shift in mentality to getting lean over losing weight; the London-based business sells bikini, bulking and cutting guides for £50 each and has already scaled to revenues of almost £300,000.

The success of celebrity “lean” fitness programmes such as reality star Lucy Mecklenbergh’s ‘Results with Lucy‘ regime, which has generated major media interest and attracted one million fans on Twitter, also proves that more and more people are now focused on making their bodies stronger, using protein products to help them do this.

Protein product business opportunities

Targeting this new get fit culture, there are a number of new and established protein products areas you can focus on. Protein shakes, milkshakes and drinks are the most commonly known protein products. Maxinutrition’s Maximuscle product is the leading player in this market along with its newer rival MyProtein but there are a cluster of start-ups which have muscled into the sector recently, including high protein dairy drink Upbeat.

The protein market is gradually becoming more competitive so if protein products sound like the right business opportunity for you then you need to act quickly; well-known brands such as Danone have recently entered the sector with their high-protein yoghurts and Marks & Spencer now has a full range of high protein meals.

In terms of actually creating a protein-related product, it’s worth noting that there are several experts who criticise the use of protein-based food and drinks so your product, be it food or drink-related, will need to be tested rigorously and extensive market research is advised. The main issue critics have highlighted is that extensive overuse of protein products could lead to kidney disease so you would need to carefully consider the protein measurements you include, how your product would be used and how you will market it successfully.

Euromonitor’s 2014 report is worth reviewing to understand consumer tastes for protein products as it has indicators of how popular protein, amino acids, whey and creatine-based products are.

Who else has started a protein product business?

Innovation is key to start-up success in the protein industry as evidenced by the early achievements of UK protein start-up Wheyhey. Established in 2012, Wheyhey claims to be the world’s first protein ice cream and its disruptive offering has enabled the company to secure investment from supermodel David Gandy, an order for Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and deals with the likes of Wholefoods, Ocado, and Holland & Barrett.

On the more obscure end of the scale in the protein product world, New York-based Exo creates high protein snack bars from the exoskeletons of crickets; “cricket flour”, and has already attracted over $1.2m funding within a year of its launch. Although a relatively new concept, crickets are said to be the “next big thing in protein” so if you’re not too queasy about the idea then cricket-based protein products could offer scope for a start-up business.

Insider opinion

Greg Duggan, co-founder of Wheyhey, discusses the new wave of awareness and buzz around the protein industry:

“Protein has moved away from being a niche product to becoming increasingly mainstream – look around you on the tube and you’re bound to see someone clutching a protein shake or chowing down a protein bar.

“There’s been a definite step change in the category in the last few years, as brands are moving away from marketing centred on bulking up and hard core workouts. Let’s face it, many of us don’t necessarily want to build excessive muscle mass. People now want to consume more protein because the messaging around protein has changed: it’s all about sports recovery, overall improved health, body image and weight management – which appeals to pretty much all of us!

“So, it’s definitely not just the hard core bodybuilders buying protein any more, it’s your best mate, the guy sat across the desk from you and the Victoria’s Secret model swearing by protein shakes. Mainstream media has been the platform driving the ‘new’ wave of protein awareness and buzz, mainly through education and informative insight. Similarly, you can’t open a paper without reading about the ill effects of excessive sugar consumption or rising obesity figures putting a strain on the NHS. An overall shift towards healthier living and an increased focus on what people are putting into their bodies is totally relevant and necessary today and tomorrow. The protein category is helping to drive this overall step change and I think it’s so important that there are more brands out there who – like our brand – are making healthy living more enjoyable, easy and accessible for everyone.”

Published Jan 2015

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