Animal protein snack innovation on the rise

7 Mar 2019

Demand for high protein snacks continues to increase, and manufacturers are innovating with animal-derived proteins, including meat, collagen, insects and egg.

Although plant-derived protein has been making headlines, demand for protein in general is on the rise, including for animal-derived proteins. Once considered a particularly North American snack, jerky has gained in popularity in Europe after the Jack Link’s brand entered the market in 2014, drawing the attention of European snack manufacturers. Innovative new products, such as sausage crisps, and traditional meat snacks from other regions, such as South African biltong, have since boosted the meat snacks market still further.

Animal protein snack innovation on the rise
Meat snacks are gaining in popularity, despite the rise of plant proteins

While rising demand for plant protein suggests that meat is falling out of favour with many Europeans, there is another group who are increasingly drawn to meat snacks. The category is predicted to reach $4.59 billion by 2025, according to a recent report from Grand View Research, with Germany, Spain and the UK leading the way. The market research firm suggests that rising demand for high quality protein-based snacks is one of the driving factors behind the trend.

Meanwhile, snack manufacturers are looking for new ways to incorporate proteins that consumers think of as high quality – and in general, that means animal-derived proteins. Cargill, for instance, has filed a patent for high protein baked egg crisps with a very high proportion of egg white protein. Texturally, the patent suggests that the crisps would be comparable to existing very low-density snack products, such as popcorn and cheese puffs – although these tend to be high in fat and carbohydrate.

PepsiCo has also explored the use of insect flour to make high protein snack products, and where an industry giant like PepsiCo leads, others are sure to follow. A 2017 survey conducted in The Netherlands found that about half of respondents did not want to try insects in any form, whether whole or as an ingredient in processed food products. But a significant proportion – about a third – said they would try cricket flour cookies. When shown a picture of the cookies, interest increased by nine percentage points, suggesting that marketing could make a big difference to consumer acceptance.

For food marketers and product developers, there is a balance to be struck between health and indulgence when it comes to protein snacks. According to recent market research from Mintel, a third of consumers say most of their snacks are healthy, while half say they snack as a treat. Animal proteins seem to fit well at this crossroads.

In Europe, younger consumers lead the trend for more protein, Mintel says. Among Italians aged 16-24, 54% say they have increased their protein consumption over the past year, for example, while half of young Spanish consumers say the same.

This increased interest is not only directed at plant-based sources, but also traditional high protein foods like meat and dairy, opening opportunities for manufacturers of foods that are naturally high in protein, like yoghurt and meat, to emphasise their protein content in marketing materials.