If I Were to Create a New Segment of the Industry, What Would It Be?

by Matt Weik

I’m not able to see into the future and predict the outcome of things, but, if there was one segment of the industry that I would love to see built would be functional food. We have so many protein bars, nutrition bars, protein shakes (RTDs), protein powder, etc. that it’s getting crowded—and even a little boring.

The items I just mentioned are all convenience items. You can grab them and go, without any preparation needed. However, personally, I’m getting bored with the landscape today. I’m almost wishing there were food items (other than whole foods which should always be the staples) that had additional ingredients added to them to make the profile more appealing to those in the supplement and sports nutrition world. It could be something for bodybuilders, athletes, or even the weekend warrior and gym rat.

Either too early or too late to the party

Back in the 90’s, MET-Rx actually had products similar to what I’m envisioning in my head. They had things like protein pizza, protein spaghetti, etc. They ended up discontinuing the “fresh food” line of products due to lack of sales. If you were able to try them back in the day and remember them, they were actually really tasty and something I thoroughly enjoyed.

In my opinion, it was ahead of its time and not many people were interested at that point. These days, I think those types of items (assuming they taste good) would sell. We see people purchasing protein cookies and protein muffins all the time. They are making protein pancakes from a premade mixture or by simply adding protein powder to their batter. They are taking protein powder and baking their own cakes and brownies. People are even getting creative with dessert items.

It seems like the demand is now here. So, who’s going to come out with these items first? Bring back a fresh/frozen line. Launch baked goods that you either simply add water to and bake yourself, or that come already packaged and ready to consume. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. You could even have functional soups and stews that you just throw in the microwave or stove-top and you’re ready in minutes with a warm meal that’s high in protein (more than what is found in normal soups and stews) and vitamins/minerals. Maybe even come out with high-protein donuts—this would be a slam dunk if they resembled the trust flavor and texture of a donut.

And with the brand loyalty that many of these brands today have, I’m sure there are enough people who would be willing to at least try it, that it could be extremely successful. When I was at MET-Rx, the pancake mix would sell itself. I would literally speak to a retailer and they’d tell me to shut up and to take their money. They couldn’t even keep it on the shelves. As soon as they got a shipment in, people would come in and clean them out in a matter of days.

I tried to convince them to launch a protein cookie mix and a protein brownie mix—similar to how we had the buttermilk pancake mix. You measure out the powder, add water, stir, and toss it on the griddle. Only with the cookies and brownies, you’d just toss them in the oven. Simple, easy, and if they do things right, macro-friendly. But, they didn’t want to run with my suggestion and idea.

Is it the right time or am I just hungry for something new and delicious?

What do you guys think? Is my belly doing the talking here or do you think there’s a need for something new in the functional food space? They could even add “extras” to the mixes or products that I mentioned above like omega-3’s, healthy fats, vitamins, BCAAs, brain boosters, energy boosters, etc.

As long as the pricing wasn’t too outrageous, I would totally utilize these types of products. Even though they would take more time than a bar or shake, they are still simple enough that a monkey could make them. We just need something different in the industry. I like the new cake bites that Optimum Nutrition is putting out, but the flavors are limited and it’s only one type of product (which happens to still resemble a protein/nutrition bar).

The industry isn’t moving forward in my opinion. Everyone is just coming out with similar products and nothing innovative is coming to market. The industry is stale. We need something new to pump new life into it. I think going this route could even expand the demographics as well. If someone who never used sports nutrition products tries one of these new products and likes it, they would be more willing to try the other existing products like bars, shakes, etc. And I certainly don’t see anything wrong with introducing our world to mainstream, so long as the supplement companies don’t whore it out in wholesalers and cut off the specialty sports nutrition channel.

So, what’s your opinion? Would you use something new like what’s mentioned in this article or are you fine with just using the products we currently see on the shelves? Am I nuts for thinking a protein pizza, protein spaghetti, protein cookies, protein donuts, and the like would be a hit? Let us know in the comments!