Meal replacement foods that fit into hectic routines and follow health trends are increasingly on the rise.
Lack of time and sedentary lifestyles are behaviors of modern life, especially in large urban centers, which have accelerated the demand for a growing market: meal replacements.
Along with the growing demand for tasty, healthy, high-quality foods, this segment offers several opportunities to launch functional products that minimize the effects of busy hours and long, commitment-filled schedules.
Organic and natural meal replacement products are among those that have shown the greatest demand in recent years due to the growing awareness and interest of consumers in the ingredients that compose the food, called the clean label movement.
Meal replacement products that are easier to store are mainly available in the form of bars, ready-to-drink shakes and soups. This gives them a longer shelf life and makes them a great on-the-go option, as they can be consumed anywhere.
Due to this convenience and the benefit of the correct supply of nutrients, sales of these products are expected to increase at a considerable pace until 2032.
Replacing meals but maintaining health
Meal replacement products are gaining traction among consumers on special diets, particularly those that control weight or maintain blood sugar levels. In addition, the target audience also includes those with time constraints, busy lifestyles, and busy work schedules. This alternative replaces meals with more nutritious options rather than conventional nutrient-poor snacks.
In addition to these health-conscious consumers, the current obesity epidemic, and the growing number of people with diabetes and hypertension contribute to boosting the global market. In other words, as demand increases, investment in new products also intensifies.
Characteristics of meal replacements
A consistent meal replacement has between 200 and 400 calories and a good amount of protein and fiber. The shakes and bars also have high nutritional value, which makes them convenient and healthy food alternatives. These products are also available in a wide variety of flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, blueberry and orange.
The increasing prevalence of various chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol is resulting in growing awareness among consumers of weight management and healthy diets. This factor is expected to lead to increased demand for meal replacement products in the coming years.
Estimates show that the global meal replacement market is expected to grow from US$ 12.5 billion in 2022 to US$ 23.2 billion by 2032. According to Future Market Insights, the compound annual growth rate is expected to be 6.4% by 2032 – compared to 4.1% between 2017 and 2021.
In Brazil, the main factor influencing the growth of meal replacement products will likely continue to be interest in health and wellness. This aspect is driving nutrition bars sales in the country, as Brazilians prefer to eat snacks that are low in sugar.
Therefore, the trend towards high protein diets and sports nutrition may continue to support the exponential increase in sales of these products during the projection period in the protein bar industry.
Innovation and market share
The largest companies in the segment are focusing on introducing and innovating their product portfolios to further grow their consumer base and improve brand loyalty.
Some of them intend to engage in partnerships and collaborations with smaller, early-stage companies to co-develop unique solutions and generate more shares. This is the case of Unilever, which in 2021 partnered with Enough, a UK-based food technology company. Together, they develop new plant-based meat products using a unique waste-free fermentation process.
In 2022, Solace Nutrition, a medical nutrition company that makes effective formulas such as dietary supplements to help individuals manage their nutritional needs, acquired R-Kane Nutritional for an undisclosed amount. This acquisition helps Solace’s strategic expansion into an adjacent nutrition market.
Also read: What can we snack on? The most sought-after attributes in snacks open new opportunities for industries.
Increasing consumer awareness of the importance of nutritious foods is driving the growth of this market globally. Rising rates of obesity, a shift toward a healthier lifestyle, and interest in nutrition all contribute to the advancement of dietary supplements in developing regions.
Companies in the meal replacement market see the movements of consumers in search of new eating habits as an opportunity to expand their businesses.