The market for global protein ingredients was worth a whopping $38.02 billion in 2019. This number is anticipated to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% from 2020 to 2027.
This is not surprising. As the protein market grows, marketing is less about building muscle or losing weight and more about consuming a healthy diet. Now, protein brands are now showing up in everyday recipes and in a range of fortified health food products, that target a whole new clean-living niche audience.
With an increase of product availability outside of the gym (e.g. in supermarkets and smoothie bars), plus the rise of Instagram fitness influencers, it’s safe to say protein brands have crossed into the mainstream.
Over the years, whey protein production has increased in German due to the interest of younger generations. However, the market is fragmented and driven by several different players. But there will always be one brand that will come out on top.
We decided to use our brand tracking software to dig deeper into the German protein market and determine the top brands in the market. Brands were ranked based on awareness, consideration, and associations, and then given an overall score.
Here are the results.
How Germany’s Top 4 Protein Brands Rank
We look at four established protein brands on the German market Foodspring, Myprotein, ESN, and Bulk Powders to determine which had the best brand performance.
A sample of 1,000 online-connected respondents in Germany was collected over 4 days. We used a method called Multilevel Regression and Postratification (multilevel regression and poststratification) to post-process the raw brand tracking data.
This method is frequently used in quantitative political science to adjust for sample bias and to yield stable small area estimates. Based on the results, we were able to determine how the general public feels about these protein brands.
Coming in 4th: Bulk Powders
Bulk Powders is a British protein powders brand founded in Colchester in 2005. With over 200,000 Facebook followers and 25,000+ Twitter followers, Bulk Powders social media campaigns ask users to share their fitness journey with the hashtag #thebestme.
Is there a better way to spread brand awareness than word-of-mouth?
The stories tagged with #thebestme are then added to the brand's global #teambulk movement on Instagram. This visual style of social media providefewers a popular platform for customers to post their gym selfies and videos. By sharing their customers' posts via Instagram Stories, Bulk Powders is creating engagement.
However, Bulk Powders still finished in fourth place. Perhaps this is due to the fact that — despite large social followings — the brand doesn't have dedicated German accounts. Influencer marketing only really works when the target audience feels a real connection to the influencer.
Additionally, we noticed is that Bulk Powder's Instagram profile is predominantly filled with photos of quite muscular, bulky fitness enthusiasts.
This begs the question — could they be alienating those interested in protein supplements simply as a means to a healthier lifestyle?
Coming in 3rd: ESN
ESN (Elite Sports Nutrients) has been selling supplements, superfoods, and fitness accessories to the European market since 2004. They may have fewer social media followers than Bulk Powders — 50,000 Facebook followers and 150,000+ Instagram followers — but they also utilize plus Pinterest and YouTube.
ESN began as a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand but have developed over the years to begin selling their products in-store. Interestingly enough, they've been able to achieve this without expensive marketing campaigns. Impressive!
Two main marketing activities have really helped ESN grow: strong content marketing and country-specific merchandizing.
Strong content marketing has helped them build their brand identity. The ESN website has an educational content marketing strategy with subpages about healthy living, muscle building, losing weight, and endurance — as well as an online magazine.
Next, we have the "Made in Germany" merchandising mark, which stands as a seal of approval for German-made quality products and services. A surefire way to warm themselves up to their German audience.
Coming in Second: Foodspring
AS a company, Foodspring really focuses on building a strong brand. In an interview with Deutsche Startups, co-founder Tobias Schule stated:
“In the first step, we win new customers and convince them in particular through the quality and service of Foodspring as a brand and our products. These customers usually remain loyal to us and regularly buy again. In this way, we build up a loyal customer base over time that repurchases without costly performance marketing.”
Foodspring has certainly been successful in doing so.
For one, their website experience is a visual one — offering high-quality photographs and content with a focus on clean and certified organic ingredients.
Similar to ESN, this brand also boasts a "Made in Germany" seal of approval. However, Foodspring seems to appeal to younger audiences more and leverages the popularity of hip ingredients and superfoods — such as goji berries and coconuts from "pure" and "natural" environments. This focus reflects their clean product strategy.
Additionally, although their products are also easily found in brick-and-mortar stores, Foodspring also offers an online shop, recipes, a free body check, and an online coach.
Customers can also engage directly with their live chat, which pops up on every landing page. This ease in accessibility seems to have served them well.
Like the other brands mentioned in this article, Foodspring has a strong social media presence and has excelled in influencer marketing. However, what has really served the brand well is its direct touch with consumers.
Take their attendance at the FIBO (the largest fitness trade fair in Germany) in Cologne in April 2019. This live marketing event had 145,000 sports enthusiasts and 1,105 exhibitors in attendance.
Foodspring was right in the middle of the event, bringing along popular influencers and heaps of their products for interested attendees to sample.
Their attendance ultimately meant that Foodspring managed to create sustainable experiences offline through hashtag and influencer campaigns — which roused in visitors the need to stay in touch with the brand and product even after the event.
The #1 ranking protein brand is... MyProtein!
Founded in 2004, MyProtein markets itself as Europe’s number one sports brand and the top sports nutrition brand globally. Based in Manchester and operating in over 70 countries worldwide, they boast over 2000 products in their product range.
MyProtein has done better than Bulk Powders, at least in this study, because they have dedicated German social media accounts. This sort of segmentation allows them to adjust their social media campaigns accordingly. And it works! Especially when it comes to influencer marketing.
MyProtein has worked with fitness enthusiast and YouTuber, Goeerki, who basically sold the message “if you want to achieve top physical and sporty shape, it's only possible with these products.” Cocky, but it worked.
Comments on the campaign were filled with people saying they have to try the MyProtein products.
Similar to Foodspring, MyProtein product packaging is simple and chic in its design. Plus, they're recently rebranded to appeal more to the Instagram audience. This strategy seems to be working, as they ranked highly in both aided brand awareness and brand consideration.
Protein Brand Performance — The Round-Up
Both MyProtein and Foodspring closely aligned in brand score. MyProtein has the numbers advantage — with 8 million clients worldwide and the #1 position globally for "value for money".
To achieve this, MyProtein employs email marketing and a user-friendly website in its digital strategy. Additionally, they run an affiliate marketing incentive program.
Foodspring ranked second, quite possibly due to their successful Instagram influencer marketing campaigns, which focus on influencers with health and wellness audiences.
However, there is a significant drop in ranking for the final two brands, which had completely different branding strategies. Still, it was interesting to note that brand consideration ranked consistently high across all brands evaluated, which may indicate that consumers are not necessarily brand loyal.
ESN and Bulk Powders both engaged in more traditional forms of marketing, such as TV advertising & event/community building. Perhaps refocusing their strategy to be more digital may increase their brand score in the future?
Expanding our interest in protein brands, we recently took a look at the up-and-coming protein and health food brand Huel to see how they were faring in the UK.
With brand awarenss coming in at 9.26% for the general population, Huel is on-par with the likes of ESN and Bulk Powders.
As opposed to some of the German brands we discussed earlier, Huel's approach is less focused on being a protein source for fitness enthusiasts and more so on providing healthy, nutritionally-rich food for everyone.
It's definitely a different approach to branding their products — and is perhaps more sustainable going forward? Only time will tell.