Product differentiation in protein supplements

Fitness as an inclusive social activity comes in many expensive protein flavors

Whey protein comes in all varieties of expensive flavors. Photo PSA

Protein supplements continue to be in high demand as people embrace healthier lives and personal training routines. Plant-based and animal-based goods are available in various forms, including powdered variants and protein-rich beverages. Contract packaging firms and innovative protein powder packaging methods are critical to advancing the retail protein sector – creating safe, effective ways to distribute and promote these in-demand items.

The protein supplement business has grown steadily as consumers embraced the perceived benefits of increasing their protein intake in recent years. Protein powders packaged for retail sale are mostly made from whey, soy, and casein.

In the early days of protein marketing, the product was marketed to a specific group of young male fitness freaks. The visuals representing toned and rippling muscles and six-packs were always included on the oversized tubs and bottles used to promote protein supplements, underlining the segment’s target clientele. They were designed for weight lifters, bodybuilders, and dedicated fitness enthusiasts, who used the protein powders to gain muscle mass and aid in the recovery of their bodies after exercise.

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The overall wellness, health and fitness markets are exploding in India with greater interest in exercise and wellness as being the best path to more active lives and warding off disease and infection. Young and old of every gender want to look fit and show off their new clothes and bodies. Social media demands that you look and feel your best since that is the first concern of your friends and circle. Fitness centers and gyms have proliferated just like beauty parlors in every neighborhood in the big cities and in towns big and small. 

Whey protein comes in all varieties of expensive flavors.
Photo IFB

The key ingredient apart from coaching and exercise being a calculated diet, protein supplements are a staple in every family and not just for the kids and teenagers but also for the parents trying to diet and lose weight. The sheer variety of products and flavors relies on a huge number of formats, sizes and styles of packaging which in turn require attractive and custom printed labels. 

Protein: not just for gym fans

The protein snacks and supplements require high-end, eye-catching graphics labels to stand out in a crowded market. Labels that are appealing and easy to read highlight the ingredients and beneficial features.

The eye-appealing labels set the stage for an expansion of the whey protein market from specialist shops to the broader modern trade wider customer demographic. Whey protein products and packaging needed to evolve from a singular demographic to a wider family demographic. A large number of suppliers and the sheer variety of products make digital packaging and labels crucial to them acquiring more places for themselves in mainstream supermarkets, hypermarkets and karyana stores. 

Digitally printed labels and packaging allow not only barcodes but variable information such as manufacturing date, use by date and sell by date without large production runs. They encourage the innovation of new products and flavors and for a targetted audience. This is just the recipe for digital label printers across the country, who are eager not just to supply brilliantly designed and attractive labels with quick turnaround times but to be treated as equal partners in the innovation of new products and their marketing concepts and packaging. 

Counterfeiting and search for an elusive “best” protein 

Ultimately, protein powders are exactly what they sound like – literally just flavored, dried protein. India is obsessed with importing foreign brands in bulk and repackaging them with flavors, colors and sweeteners and selling it as their own brands. This increases costs and adds very variable pricing for brands

Because protein is just made from milk and nothing else, production should be quite cheap with India being the largest dairy producer in the world. However, less than a handful of brands are interested in manufacturing whey. Alternate sources such as pea isolate or soy or casein are still relatively new concepts.

Adulteration and imitation of labels is a very common practice in counterfeit protein sales. Several brands are notoriously socially boycotted by fitness enthusiasts because it’s virtually impossible to find original products behind exact imitation packaging. The packing industry has a huge load on its shoulders to come up with tamper-proof packaging without increasing prices for domestic whey production. 

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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