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Own label meal replacements have grown consistently since their commercial inception in early 1970. Though at this time they were not modified specifically for weight loss and health benefits, they were used primarily in hospitals and nursing homes. These products replaced the blended meals for those that could not eat solid foods due to health issues and had to be tube fed. Many patients relied on these meal replacements as their sole source of nutrition for years.

In 1977 Thompson Medical launched Slim Fast. SlimFast was a commercial weight loss product leading to an up rise in meal replacements as a way to help fight an increasingly worrying obesity epidemic. More recently, meal replacement products address the needs of on the go convenience for the health-conscious busy lives of millennials and motivation seekers. Powdered Carnation Instant Breakfast led the way for hundreds of beverages across all distribution channels. In today’s market, a wide range of meal replacement shakes suit a variety of needs, sports nutrition and other niche markets.

Today’s own label meal replacements are steering towards more ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ and offering more within each sachet. A key driver in the market are the added health benefits; a multitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are included to help prime the body for its desired result. Although not easy to develop, by drilling into advances in food science and trends within the health market, private label meal replacements are becoming more about what the consumer wants; a multitude of flavours, alternative ways to create, alternative versions for specific dietary preferences.

Private Label Meal Replacements

The difference between protein shakes and own label meal replacements is that a protein shake acts as a protein supplement only. The use of protein within own label meal replacements helps to keep the consumer fuller for longer, reducing the need for extra calories. As the consumer is essentially skipping an entire meal with own label meal replacements, it is essential that they are providing the body with nutrients it would have received within the meal.

Roughly 17% of the UK are reported to have used own label meal replacement shakes in 2016. The most frequent reasons for consuming own label meal replacements are for getting more protein into their diet and for losing weight. When researching own label meal replacement shakes, it is classed more as a lifestyle category defined by attitudes and behaviours more than demographics. From a health perspective, each demographic has concerns with varying health issues, but weight loss and overall body appearance is visible across all age ranges in both males and females.

A challenge in the market is a lack of awareness about the benefits of meal replacement shakes. Despite an increase in consumption, certain consumers will use these shakes as they feel they should be, or without improving the rest of their diet and exercise to really reap the benefits. This, in turn, impacts the market, as consumers believe the products are not as beneficial as they believe.

In terms of leading brands, the Slimfast of today has evolved into a large range of meal replacement shakes, bars and snacks with the promise that replacing two meals a day will help you lose weight. The level of effort required to maintain a Slimfast plan is medium, with snacks offering other quick alternatives for busy lives. Each 230kcal shake contains 15.4g of protein and 23 vitamins and minerals. The amount of information within their plan is massive, with a friendly approach which is perfect for every audience.

Furthermore, the only downside to their product range is its limitations due to having around 5 flavours of meal replacement shake and all needing milk to be mixed. Although this does not totally cancel out any consumers with an intolerance due to lactose-free milk, it is an inconvenience for those on the go sourcing milk or keeping it cold until ready to drink.

Supporting the ‘healthy and natural’ trend in the market, Yokebe have taken a traditional approach to weight loss. Yokebe markets itself as a natural weight loss shake that contains a ‘unique’ mix of vitamins, minerals, proteins, honey and macro nutrients all contained within 273 calories. With its 32.g protein, it promises to help retain muscle and lose fat.

This meal replacement is yet to adapt its “triple effect” recipe to suit vegans but contains no artificial flavours, sweeteners, refined sugars or preservatives which appeal to the health-conscious consumer. Yokebe have adapted their classic recipe to appeal to a wider audience by introducing two new flavours that do not need oil in order to be well combined, making it easy to be consumed out of the home. The clever addition of a blend of both whey and soy proteins helps maintain muscle mass, further boosting the body’s metabolism, encouraging the body to burn more calories.

Most noteworthy for new own label meal replacements to successfully penetrate an already busy market, all health benefits provided must be clear and concise. With the business of peoples lives, specific instructions given to the consumer are more appealing, such as meal replacement boxes that contain individual serving sachets, sachets of capsules to take and clear instructions on when to consume. The market is largely open for whey meal replacement alternatives, suitable for all dietary requirements, providing it contains a satisfactory nutritional value.

Protein Powders

Since 2016, the rising demand for protein powders has increased by 27%. 1 in 4 people in the UK now use a protein powder supplement as part of their everyday diet and exercise routine. Many consumers are hungry for further high protein product innovation.

Protein powders on the market today divide into three qualities:

Protein concentrates are produced by extracting protein from the whole food using heat and acid or enzymes. While these types of proteins usually contain around 60% protein, the remaining 40% is made up of calories from carbs and fat.

Protein Isolates follow the same process but also go through a filtering system that removes the additional fat and carbs, creating a further concentrated protein at around 90%.

Protein Hydrolysates are heated after with acid or enzymes, breaking the bond between amino acids. This allows the body to absorb the protein quicker.

Traditionally, protein powders were associated with bodybuilders. However, in recent years, more consumers are joining the trend in search of a healthier lifestyle. With more consumer-friendly brands emerging in the market, the benefits of protein powder appeal to a wider audience, even for weight loss. The rise in female users has dramatically increased since 2010, according to a report from Mintel, with the market seeing more and more products aimed at this consumer area.

Euromonitor reports that Finland, Sweden and the UK are the biggest sports nutrition markets when looking at terms of per capita consumption, with the UK being the fastest growing market showing retail values increasing 14% in 2017. Industry figures show that UK consumers spent £66million on sports nutrition food and drink products in 2015, with a predicted increase of 31% in 2018.

Traditional whey protein derives from milk, but with an increasingly health-conscious population, more and more people are cutting out dairy products. Media headlines have broadcast how there are links between dairy and obesity, risks of cancer and intolerances. This, partnered with the rise in veganism within the UK, provided the foundation for innovative new ways to provide vegan-friendly, high protein alternatives that appeal to the modern day.

Pea protein powder is one of the newest emerging alternatives. It is made from the yellow split pea, a high fibre legume containing large amounts of essential amino acids for methionine and particularly rich in branched chain amino acids. In a controlled study of 161 men who performed resistance training for 12 weeks, the group consuming 50 grams of pea protein daily experienced increases in muscle thickness compared to the group taking 50 grams of whey protein or a placebo per day.

Brown rice protein powder aren’t necessarily new but have been considered inferior to whey protein for muscle building. This innovative protein contains a low amount of lysine to be classed as a complete protein, however.

Hemp protein powder is gaining popularity as a well-digested plant-based supplement. Hemp is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and several essential amino acids but is not classed as a complete protein due to its low levels of essential amino acids lysine and leucine.

A trend in plant protein powders are that they often lack one or more amino acids in a sufficient quantity to meet the nutritional needs of a person. These protein powders can be combined and blended to help overcome this. Powders such as quinoa, flaxseeds, pea, brown rice, hemp and chia seeds can be mixed to produce a superior product.

Plant Based Protein