Food and beverage companies are rolling out products that are high in protein to respond to heightened demand as the pandemic gives rise to health concerns — and people fretting about not getting enough physical activity.
Lee Eun-kyung, a 43-year-old resident of Gangnam District in southern Seoul, has been regularly buying ready-to-drink protein drinks.
“My family members and I have all gained weight over the extended coronavirus pandemic,” said Lee. “[I buy protein supplements to] manage my family’s health by enhancing muscular strength and keeping a healthy weight.”
Mr. Suh, an office worker, has purchased protein powder in bulk.
“The coronavirus pandemic has spiked my interest in health,” said Suh. “I heard that protein products enhance immunity, so I purchased them without hesitation. I bought them in bulk to share with my parents.”
According to the Korea Health Promotion Institute (KHPI), all age groups reported weight gain during the pandemic. Among 1,031 respondents to a recent survey, the number of people who reported weight increases was highest for people in their 30s, followed by people in their 50s, 20s and 40s.
Home workouts contributed to the increasing popularity of protein products. Younger consumers want to maintain their body shapes, and older people think dietary supplements can be a substitute for physical activity. Some people have been buying protein products as snacks for their children.
Food industry analysts predict that the market for protein-related products will expand twofold from the 50 billion won ($44 million) to 60 billion won range in 2019 to over 100 billion won this year. The interest in protein products for overall health and boosting the immune system is a global trend. Research firm Global Market Insights estimates that the global market for protein products, which was 13 trillion won in 2017, will grow to 18.4 trillion won by the end of this year.
Food and beverage companies have been adding more protein products to their lineup. Orion said its Dr. You Protein Bar, which was introduced in April 2019, sold more than 18 million bars since its launch.
“Dr. You Protein Bar has gained popularity via word of mouth among consumers who regularly work out and are interested in maintaining their health and body shapes,” said a spokesperson for Orion. “This year alone, the protein bar has recorded more than 14 billion won in sales.”
In June, Orion entered the protein beverage business by rolling out a beverage, the Dr. You Drink, which comes in chocolate and banana flavors. Sales have exceeded 2.7 billion won and 2.5 million bottles. Orion has also released mini-sized versions of the drink for consumers who want smaller protein intakes.
Maeil Dairies’ Celex, a nutrition brand for adults, set this year’s sales goal at 50 billion won, twice as high as last year. The dairy product company, which used to focus on protein supplements in powder form, is trying to diversify. In September, the company rolled out Celex Sports Weight Protein Drink Chocolate.
Ildong Foodis in February rolled out powder-type protein supplements, recording a monthly average of 30 percent sales increase. The item has been popular on home shopping programs, where most of the sales occur. Binggrae in April set foot in the protein beverage market by rolling out Yoplait Protein, which is more than 8 percent protein. Other companies like Purmil, CJ Freshway and Woongjin Foods have also been releasing protein products.
“Interest in health has been rising during the pandemic, and demand for protein, which is instrumental for muscle formation and metabolism, is increasing,” said an industry expert. “The competition for new products will intensify as more protein items roll out.”
BY KWAK JAE-MIN [[email protected]]