How manufacturers differentiate their products from other functional foods and powdered supplements


Meal replacement as a category has changed dramatically as consumers began to more actively incorporate nutritional supplements such as protein into their daily diet. What used to be a weight loss approach has turned into an opportunity to sip a nutritious meal through a straw while you ride the bus to work. As Mintel pointed out in 2016, 39% of the consumers surveyed stated that they use nutritional and performance drinks as a substitute for breakfast, and 58% stated that they use nutritional and performance drinks as a meal replacement.

“For some consumers, now the key is to supplement their diet with protein, fiber, and the essential vitamins and minerals they may be missing out on if they can’t sit down for a meal,” said Steven Riley, director of marketing and consumer sales at Microbiome-focused company OptiBiotix Health.

As the concept of meal replacement expanded to include many types of nutrient-rich beverages – including performance, nutritional, and sports drinks – some of the limelight has moved away from drinks that are solely focused on weight loss. But nobody cares about shedding a few pounds. As Riley says, “There is still a large subgroup who wish to consume meal replacements to control or support weight loss. Fortunately, many brands are changing their products to ensure they meet these consumer demands by offering quick, nutritious alternatives that reduce hunger pangs. “

Today, the focus of meal replacements seems to be on nutrient density over certain health outcomes. For example, OptiBiotix Health’s GoFigure meal replacement shakes are high in fiber, high in protein, and contain 23 vitamins and minerals. GoFigure also contains 3 grams of SlimBiome, a functional prebiotic ingredient with glucomannan, chicory root fiber, and chromium that helps maintain healthy blood sugar, promote a healthy gut microbiome, and increase satiety to help reduce food cravings over time and improve weight management help.

The source of the nutrients is also important. For example, Paul Tylla, CEO of Phox Foods Inc., originally developed his plant-based meal replacement, Heal, when his wife was diagnosed with ALS and eventually relied on feeding tubes to feed synthetic ingredients into her body. With the help of Canadian food scientist Stacy Mitchell Doyle, MD, this herbal formula, which is free of synthetic vitamins and minerals, became Heal. Heal contains 25 grams of protein and 24 vitamins and minerals, with two scoops equivalent to three to four servings of fruits and vegetables.

“What we’re doing with Heal is breaking the line between food for the sick and food for the health-conscious,” says Tylla. “Heal’s formulation is vastly superior to any single vegetable protein, simply because of all of the value it provides beyond a source of protein. Bottom line: What we find is that health conscious people who discover Heal identify it as a complete nutritional package, and the sick see it as the optimal option for an underrepresented category and community of the sick and the elderly. ”

It’s also worth distinguishing meal replacements from protein powders. While someone might choose to replace a meal with a protein shake, if the shake isn’t rich in vitamins and minerals, it is not a proper meal replacement.

Are shakes still king?

There’s no denying that a meal replacement shake comes in handy. It’s a guilt-free snack and a weight loss tool – but we now live in a world where there is no shortage of guiltless snacks. Will functional foods like bars or even chip shakes overtake shakes in the field of meal replacement? Not quite, says Riley.

“When it comes to the future of functional snacks, we know that they bring great value to the on-the-go nutrition market by offering consumers a healthy alternative to what used to be comfort at the expense of health was. This is where brands shouldn’t try to compete with shakes in this area because of their higher nutritional content, ”says Riley. “Instead, they can supplement a meal replacement with a functional snack to increase the daily intake of important nutrients such as protein and fiber.”

Tylla agrees. “I would say with certainty that a trend towards healthier on-the-go snacking has opened eyes to the idea that meal replacements are for everyone, not just the sick or the elderly. I would say that people call food more than just “healthy” or “high calorie”, but something that deserves a little more thought. “

Interestingly, when it comes to meal replacements, Tylla sees the ready-to-drink category shift away as more consumers prefer powders that they can mix themselves. “For example, almost everyone has been introduced to the idea of ​​shaker cups, which in turn supplants the need for ready-to-serve cups for convenience [and] also a massive reduction in packaging and waste, ”says Tylla. “To be honest, I think people are becoming more and more aware of what they are putting into their bodies and how much comfort they and the environment cost.”

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