Savoury and female-friendly: Sports nutrition expert’s tips for new protein supplement product innovation
Leslie Bonci, the owner of nutrition consulting firm Active Eating Advice, works with athletes, including the Carnegie Mellon University athletics team and the American professional ballet company the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
She spoke about the role of dairy protein in health, fitness and well-being during a seminar organised by the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) in Singapore.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, she gave tips on new product development ideas on protein supplement based on her experience advising professional athletes, including football, rugby and figure skaters on their nutritional intake.
Firstly, she said that manufacturers could consider making savoury protein supplements to address the current market gap, and also palette change in athletes.
“The ready-to-eat products are sweet, the bars are sweet, they are not savoury, and sometimes they are just not appealing in flavour.”
She pointed out that athletes doing endurance exercise displayed a shift in palette, which created a demand for savoury protein supplement.
“When I work with my iron men triathletes, by the time they get to the fourth hour, they just don’t want anything sweet. They want something like a rice ball with a soy sauce or something salty like a chicken broth.
“On the other hand, part of it is sugar phobia, thinking that sugar is bad.”
Appealing to females
Secondly, Bonci pointed out that there was also market opportunities for female-friendly protein supplements.
“It has to be something that is in the right size. A figure-skater still needs protein, but is not going to want to consume something enormous, they will want something that is female friendly.”
Thirdly, she advised firms to consider injecting elements that consumers were familiar with as they experiment with new product development.
“Another thing is to consider what’s familiar. Is there something that I could use and put into something that I am already eating?
“So if I have oatmeal, could I have a stick pack, open that and put that into my oat meal or porridge and that gives you the protein without taking a lot of calories and without taking any more time.
At present, she noticed that most of the football players still consumed protein powders by adding it into shakes or smoothies. She added protein bars, on the other hand, were less preferred partly due to issues with taste preference.
More tips for food formulators
During her presentation, Bonci also gave a number of tips for formulators making protein supplements.
She advised firms to base their products on the need to consume protein every four hours for effective muscle building.
Other tips include making a protein supplement that is portable, easy to prepare, within a reasonable price-point, versatile, and available in different forms.
Besides protein supplementation, Bonci pointed out anti-inflammatory and dietary supplements were also the other key demands seen in athletes.
“Right now, I will say that there is a lot of demand on things that are anti-inflammatory. So things like tart cherry juice, that’s a very big one right now to minimise inflammation.
“Protein is there without a doubt. The third one will be in the area of supplements to correct deficiencies, so omega-3, vitamin D, iron supplements if these are a concern.”
On the other hand, athletes doing endurance sports would look for carbohydrate supplementation to fuel them over the long distance.
Others might require energy boosters, such as caffeine supplements.