The shift has come with people facing conflicting dietary advice – especially when it comes to fat and carbohydrates – and switching increasingly to protein to help lose or maintain their weight.
The research by consumer analysts Mintel looked at shopping habits in Britain, China, the United States and Germany and found a significant number of people increased their protein intake last year, compared to 2013.
While China and US lead with way, with a quarter of those questioned eating more protein snacks than a year previously, in Britain 13 per cent said that they had upped their intake, while 12 per cent of Germans had increased theirs.
Protein-heavy snacks include specialist energy bars, meal-replacement drinks, yoghurts, meat substitutes such as quinoa and tofu, but also meat snacks themselves.
Stephanie Mattucci, Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel, said: “It seems that protein is the latest unexplored area of a food product’s nutritional statement.
“Protein is no longer a fad, high protein diets and products have made a real impression on nutrition, re-shaping consumers’ attitudes towards protein in their diet.
“The desire for more health benefits from food and drink products has led to a boom for products that boast high protein content.”
The figures also show that protein is seen as an aid to weight loss and control: almost half of British residents questioned, 47 per cent, who were eating more of it said they were doing so to help maintain a healthy weight while 42 per cent of Britons who had increased their protein consumption, had done so to help them lose weight. Nearly a third of Britons, 31 per cent, were consuming more protein to satisfy their appetite.
Ms Mattucci said: “In 2014, much emphasis was placed on the global overweight or obese population, protein has earned a role for promoting weight loss and weight control because of its links to satiety, which helps consumers feel fuller longer.
“This message is easily understood and resonates very well amongst most consumers.”
However, the appetite for protein only stretches so far, and only around one in four Britons, 27 per cent, were interested in trying insect-sourced protein, while 56 per cent said they have not eaten marine source protein, such as algae.
Ms Mattucci added: “Insects are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamins, fibre and minerals.
“While various insect-based products have been launched across the globe, this research shows novel protein sources will be challenged by western consumers’ unwillingness to try them.”
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