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What Food Makers Should Know About Protein Selection

Seniors believe that they should consume more protein and prefer to get their daily recommended intake from functional foods and beverages instead of supplements. This opens the door for food manufacturers to create tasty protein fortification applications to meet this growing demand and stay relevant.

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How can food manufacturers stay relevant in their protein selection for the senior market?

Seniors believe that they should consume more protein and prefer to get their daily-recommended intake from functional foods and beverages instead of supplements. This opens the door for food manufacturers to create tasty protein fortification applications to meet this growing demand and stay relevant.

Using a variety of proteins is important since most adults believe that a blending of both plant and animal-based proteins are best. Since most consumers are not able to distinguish between the types of protein used, manufacturers can use plant protein alone or blended with other proteins.  A great tip when formulating a product is to keep the leucine content in mind – a key amino acid that has been identified in the research literature to trigger muscle protein synthesis.  For example, a blend of soy, dairy and whey protein provides high quality protein can be optimized to meet the leucine threshold.  

When choosing a lean source of plant protein, soy protein is a top choice as it’s the only widely available plant-based source that is a complete protein. Additionally, soy protein has zero cholesterol, and is one of the few food components that have been shown in clinical studies to decrease total and LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk for coronary heart disease, when incorporated in a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. 

Taste and consistency are also important when formulating protein-rich beverages for the senior community. As consumers age, swallowing can become challenging. Choosing the right selection of protein, a formulator can create a thin juice-like product or a thicker product that could ideally serve the dysphagia market. 

DuPont Nutrition & Health® offers a diverse line of protein ingredients and has a variety of experts who can assist manufacturers with determining the best ingredient that would address the needs of this growing market, such as energy and vitality, muscle health and physical performance, immune health, weight and blood sugar management, heart health and digestive health. 

How different age groups, like seniors, understand the value of protein-rich foods.

The food and beverage industry has not fully tapped into or developed a strategy for the growing senior population. Truth is, the lines are getting blurred between how someone acts and what their actual age is. To learn more about the senior group, DuPont Nutrition & Health® conducted consumer research, and looked into segmented consumer factors including needs, demands and age breakdowns.  Following the research we learned two important things. First, the senior community is busy and active. Second, the industry is making the wrong assumption that this community is only interested in general health and wellness beverage supplements. Instead, we learned that seniors are looking for the same things as other age groups: protein-rich functional foods that help support sustained energy. The research also uncovered that this group understands the health benefits of protein, and identified their main areas of concern, like – heart heath and immunity.

As we age, research indicates that our bodies demand higher quantities of protein to maintain and/or increase muscle mass and muscle function.  In fact, sarcopenia, loss of skeletal muscle, occurs at a rate of 3-8% per decade after the age of 30, and increases with advancing age. Sarcopenia can cause a loss of independence by inhibiting one’s ability to carry out daily routine tasks by increasing the risk for falls and fractures. It has been shown that a well-balanced diet and exercise can strengthen the skeletal muscles; however exercise becomes cumbersome and challenging with the elderly, in comparison with younger adults.

Lean proteins, such as soy protein, have been shown to support muscle maintenance and heart health. There are essential amino acids in proteins elicit a muscle response in all age groups. Research suggests that 25 – 30 grams of high quality protein at each meal helps promote optimal muscle protein synthesis, as well as to ensure adequate intake of the essential amino acid leucine. This can be obtained simply by consuming dietary protein like soy protein. By tapping into this demand, food producers have the opportunity to appeal to a larger audience of consumers by developing protein-rich foods and beverages.


Megan DeStefano, Global Strategic Marketing, DuPont Nutrition & Health

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