Plant-based protein takes off
Drug Store News spoke with Troy Talarico, VP sales Fusion Diet Systems, regarding the consumer diet aid trend favoring meal-replacement offerings over quick-fix solutions.
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DSN: What are the factors driving the growth in sales of diet aids and meal-replacement solutions across retail pharmacy?
Troy Talarico: Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one out of three adult Americans are obese. When you look at what’s happening in our country, diet is going to continue to grow as a category. People have tried the get-slim-quick gimmicks that you still see out there, but people are realizing that they’ve got to incorporate sensible eating and exercise [into their lifestyles]. It’s got to be a holistic change. And when you look at the arena we play in, in terms of protein powders and meal replacements, it makes a lot of sense for people to bake [meal-replacement solutions] into their daily nutritional regimen.
DSN: How do you differentiate from the competition? What helps drive diet aid solutions off of the shelf?
Troy Talarico: For a long time vegans had accepted the fact that products marketed toward them, that were healthy and good for them, were expected to taste bad. What we’re trying to do is change that with products that taste really good. When we demo our products to buyers, they can’t believe it’s a plant protein product. We want to be the really good-tasting plant protein that’s healthy for you. Then there’s packaging — we have really innovative packaging for this category. When you look at our products on the shelf, it pops. It draws the eye right to this category. These consumers are very studious — they read the packaging and they’re looking for non-GMO, no sugar added, cholesterol-free and soy-free. They are very much dialed into reading labels. Those are two of the big differentiators we bring to the table.
DSN: Who is the consumer that protein-based diet aids bring into the category?
Troy Talarico: Our core demographic is late 20s to mid 50s, skewing more toward women. These are women and men who actively exercise and combine protein supplementing with a healthy lifestyle. About one-third are college educated; 50% are never married; and [collectively] have a household income of around $60,000 per year. They’re very health conscious and green, so they care about the environment. And they’re quality driven; it’s not all about price.
DSN: What is the bottom line? Where is the white space in today’s diet sets?
Troy Talarico: Several years ago, plant-based protein was a novelty or fringe offering. But it’s a very large category now. Merchandisers who don’t have a plant-based protein [option] are missing out on a segment of the population who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegans or [who] want something, quite frankly, that’s just healthier than a whey protein powder. Our goal is to revolutionize this category. We want our buyers to know that in addition to appropriate margins, competitive pricing and marketing support, we are going to give them a protein lineup that tastes good.