Popular acceptance of healthy lifestyles and personal training regimens continues to fuel the call for protein supplements. These plant and animal based products come to market in several ways, including powdered varieties and drinks packed with protein. Contract packaging companies play an important role advancing the retail protein industry, devising safe, efficient ways to distribute and market these sought-after products, along with protein powder packaging methods.
Packaged Protein Moves to the Mainstream
The protein supplement market has seen steady growth in recent years, as consumers embrace the perceived benefits of boosting their individual protein intake. Whey, soy and casein are primary sources of the protein powders packaged for retail sale.
In the early days of protein marketing, promoting the substance focused on a specialized niche of consumers. The oversized tubs and bottles used to market protein products almost always featured graphics depicting toned and rippling musculature, highlighting the segment’s target market. Protein powders were aimed at weight lifters, bodybuilders, and committed fitness enthusiasts, most often using the products to build mass and help their bodies recover after workouts.
During the early period of protein industry sales growth, increases were closely tied to the burgeoning fitness industry, as health clubs, fitness centers, and gyms became more affordable and accessible. Rising sales of protein products counted on devotees’ belief the goods play an integral role, maximizing the benefits of working out. That has changed.
As growing numbers of consumers embrace healthy living, the appeal of protein powders and ready to drink supplements is no longer limited to hardcore weight lifters and fitness fanatics. Weight trainers and elite athletes are still a core component of the overall protein market, but casual users now represent a substantial share of consumer interest, creating opportunities for producers and their packaging partners.
Protein Industry Facts and Figures
According to Euromonitor International, sports nutrition, nutrition bars, and sports drink categories accounted for at least $16 billion in 2015 US sales. Sports protein powders alone represented 70% of the sports nutrition segment, reaching nearly $5 billion in sales across the US. According to the group, the number is expected to rise to at least $7.5 billion by 2020.
Supplements aimed at the sports market continue performing well, particularly for traditional, established brands. But non-sports protein products have also taken-off, promoting general health. As more consumers become aware of the emerging brands; event sponsorships, sampling, and campaigns targeting “ordinary” users have all elevated protein’s position in areas once seen as sports-only markets dominated by fitness elites.
Their growing appeal has opened mainstream doors for protein powders and drinks, now routinely appearing in mass channels at stores like CVS, Walmart, Walgreen’s, and Target. The steady growth also reflects particularly robust success selling online, cementing remote sales’ place within the swelling protein industry.
Buyers’ rising desire to consume more protein is not limited to powders and drinks, but rather, reflects a trend among young people sold on the general health benefits of a protein-rich diet. The future looks bright for protein. According to a report from Packaged Facts, 37% of those aged 25-39 are likely to seek out plant protein, closely followed by 22% under age 25.
Competition to accommodate the demand for protein is sure to spark new products and innovation, challenging contract packaging companies to keep pace with market shifts.
Protein Packaging Alternatives
Whether the products are derived from soy, whey, or casein sources, protein packaging solutions address merchandising, marketing, and transportation concerns, alongside the need to maintain product integrity and provide a positive user experience. Though it sounds like a tall order, progressive packaging companies turn to several effective options, bringing popular proteins to consumers. These include:
Plastic Jars and Tubs
Familiar straight-sided plastic jars are ideal for packaging protein powders. The containers are easily outfitted with plastic scoops, accommodating precise measurements when mixing proteins with liquids for consumption. Wrap-around labels are commonly used for brand messaging and merchandising appeal. To further set-apart individual brands, some makers choose jars with irregular shapes for packaging protein. Square and triangular footprints are available, providing the same benefits of conventional tubs, with added merchandising value for standing out among competing products. Clear and opaque versions are also available, further personalizing protein packaging choices.
Tapered-neck protein packaging solutions resemble traditional vitamin bottles, available in standard and oversized versions. Equipped with smaller screw-top caps than their straight-sided counterparts, the bottles are made of glass or plastic. Their shape enhances nutritional perception among consumers, who associate the bottles with pharmaceutical applications. Metallic lids with coated inserts can also be added, distinguishing the packaging from regular all plastic versions. And branded color schemes can be matched, incorporating colored caps into the protein bottle designs. Like plastics jars and tubs, the bottle filling can be outfitted with safety seals, ensuring product integrity at the time of purchase.
Ready-to-drink protein beverages represent another growing segment within the nutritional supplement industry, typically packaged in cans, glass and plastic bottles, and Tetra Pak cartons suitable for liquids.
Cardboard and Metal Canisters
Coated cardboard canisters replace plastic and glass protein containers. The economical alternatives use snap on plastic lids to keep contents fresh and accommodate dispensing individual servings. The familiar form has traditionally been used to package powdered baby formula and dry milk.
The metal canisters sometimes used for protein powders are recognizable to consumers as once popular coffee cans, relying on similar plastic lids for easy repeat access.
Reducing the need for rigid containers, packagers frequently turn to pouching solutions for protein products. The durable, lightweight bags are constructed of layered material, accommodating the freshness needs of pouch contents.
Gusseted bottoms enhance stability, making it easy and cost-effective to transport and display the goods in retail environments. Clear viewing windows are sometimes added, allowing shoppers to inspect smoothie powders and protein drink mixes without opening the containers.
Many of the pouches incorporate zip seals or sliders, but protein powders are also packaged in stand-up bags reminiscent of those used for coffee – complete with attached bendable closures.
The customer base for protein powders and drinks continues to expand beyond weight trainers and fitness enthusiasts. The surge not only creates opportunities for protein producers, but also for forward-looking packagers, prepared to meet the rising demand. Stand-up pouches, jars, bottles, and lidded canisters are only a few of the cost-effective solutions recommended for packaging these increasingly sought-after products. Working with experienced packaging professionals ensures timely fulfillment and creates a competitive edge for protein brands marketed online and in retail stores.