Forget juice diets – Brits are going back to basics as protein, a tradition staple in a balanced diet, is now seen by 86% of UK consumers as an important ingredient in staying healthy.

Looking across Europe, people are actively incorporating more protein in their diet in 2014 compared to 2013. Most noticeably, a third of consumers in Italy and Poland are trying to increase their protein intake, with Spain following closely behind at 31%, Germany with over a quarter and similarly in France over a fifth. In the UK in 2013, 30% of consumers were found to be in agreement with the statement that they should be getting more protein in their diet.

The development of high protein food and drink has subsequently soared in the UK over the last few years, rising by 16% from 2012 to 2013, with product launches now double the number recorded in 2010.

The dairy category in particular has explored the benefits of protein through recent product launches. It was responsible for 11% of high protein innovations in the UK in 2013, rising to almost a fifth in the first seven months of 2014.

Would you reach for the milk after a work out?

Dairy drinks have gained recognition over the last decade as effective sports drinks, for both post and pre-exercise. As a growing body of research now suggests, milk refuels and rehydrates the body, whilst also repairing lean muscle.

Looking more closely at why this is; milk contains two proteins: whey and casein. Whey has long been recognised for its benefits in resistance training and muscle building, while casein is believed to have positive influence on recovery processes. Both therefore work together to have a positive effect after exercise.

Indeed, it’s not just scientists championing protein’s benefits, nearly a fifth (18%) of Brits think that dairy-based drinks with added protein are a good drink before/after exercise. In addition protein’s recent overhaul means that it is no longer only attractive to bodybuilders and athletes. More general lifestyle benefits of protein are being suggested by brands in order to broaden usage.

With almost two thirds (63%) of UK consumers already associating protein with staying full longer, protein drinks can engage consumers looking to bridge the hunger gap.

Start your day the protein way?

The growth of breakfast dairy drinks in the last few years, both globally and in the UK, also suggests new occasions to exploit high protein claims. With 53% of Brits agreeing that dairy-based drinks with added protein or oats make a good breakfast, innovations are expected to continue. Given the appeal, more brands should be highlighting their protein content, particularly given the growing understanding of the importance of protein consumption balanced better throughout the day (i.e. more in the morning, less in the evening).

By focusing less on how high protein drinks will improve sports performance and more on how it can aid everyday situations, there is potential to engage a wider variety of consumers. This is particularly the case when it comes to breakfast, where consumers have already shown interest in dairy drinks with added protein, proving that more consumers are looking to protein to help sustain them through long working days.

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