INTERVIEW: Weetabix Eyes Protein Trend to “Create Even Better Breakfasts for Consumers”

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16 Mar 2016 --- Weetabix, the biggest breakfast cereal brand in the UK, is eyeing new growth opportunities within the healthier breakfast space, including the growth market for high protein products. In January 2016, the company took first place in the cereal category at this year’s Product of the Year awards; for new product Weetabix Protein Crunch.

Protein is a key growth platform in NPD, with the biggest rise in actual product development is occurring in pea protein and wheat protein. In fact, Innova Market Insights reported a +24% rise in the launch of global high protein launches with plant-based proteins (2014 vs. 2013), with the strongest growth being reported for pea protein and wheat protein from 2010-2014.

Speaking at the World Food Innovate 2016 in London, Kevin Verbruggen (pictured), Head of Innovation at Weetabix, outlines Click to Enlargethe importance of trends from a category dynamic: “Knowing the rules of your category and understanding what it takes to deliver a product is important to the innovation purpose.”

Verbruggen explains to FoodIngredientsFirst that their role and responsibility is to offer healthier choices for breakfast: “Weetabix itself is a low sugar product, there is a greater public awareness of the evils of sugar. We have also responded to consumer demands by gradually reducing the level of salt down in our products too.”

“We want to be present in twice as many homes in the UK and innovation is one of the key drivers for success and growth in that,” Verbruggen claims.

“In terms of convenience too, we have succeeded in offering a convenient breakfast with our Weetabix On the Go breakfast drinks. It’s important for us to continue to offer what consumers want.”

“At Weetabix, we wanted to create an even better breakfast for our consumers,” says Verbruggen, “Every day, everyone within our teams work on how to make breakfasts better for our consumers, it could be to make it healthier, more filling, more enjoyable, more convenient.”

The world’s growing demand for protein in general, has been a key trend for several years. As is often noted, the world’s population is estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, according to the World Health Organization, leading to increased demand for proteins.

The shift to higher protein products started with bars and beverages, the trend has moved on to higher and higher levels of proteins, reaching targets of 40% protein in the finished product.

Sources of protein have become more diversified beyond that of dairy and meat, with many protein products demonstrating significant potential in the market.

“We saw the protein trend in the US, and wanted to be the first mainstream brand to drive it in the UK. We found that consumers want a breakfast which makes them feel fuller for longer, gives a good source of energy, and helps keep their family’s bodies fit and strong. Protein does just this, though they need brands they find familiar and trustworthy.”

“We have just launched Weetabix Protein, which is ‘Protein Made Easy’ – a High Protein breakfast, coupled with everything people love about Weetabix,” claims Verbruggen.

"We selected a type of whole grain wheat which naturally contains a higher protein content. 20% of the energy comes from protein, and it’s also high in fibre, low in sugar and salt, and a source of vitamins and iron,” says Verbruggen.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Verbruggen says Weetabix Protein is in the familiar format of Weetabix, but gives people the protein they need specifically in the mornings: “The evidence suggests its best to spread the protein out during the day, most people don’t get enough during the morning so something like Weetabix Protein answers to that.”  Click to Enlarge

“We are just in the launch phase at the moment, there are five different products in our range including different flavors,” says Verbruggen, “Our Weetabix Protein Crunch, which was launched back in July last has already been voted in 12,000 households as product of the year, this was all additional business for us and very profitable.”

“Weetabix are the number one cereal and muesli (Alpen) brand in the UK, and are bang on trend with the reduction in sugar levels and people wanting to eat healthily. Verbruggen says: “People are wanting to eat healthier, Weetabix has been a healthy cereal for 85 years and we are really proud of that.”

“I firmly believe that best way to predict the future is to create it ourselves,” adds Verbruggen.

A video of the interview can be seen here.

by Elizabeth Kenward

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