Good brand performance has never been so important for protein brands due to a shift in the industry. Check out which brands are performing best - and why.
The market for global protein ingredients was a whopping USD 38.02 billion in 2019. This number is anticipated to experience a 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. That’s not to mention the increase in popularity of plant-based protein. 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.
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 n=1,000 online-connected respondents in Germany was collected over 4 days. We used a method called MRP (multilevel regression and poststratification) to post-process the raw survey 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 what the general public feel about these protein brands.
Bulk Powders is a British protein powders brand founded in Colchester in 2005. With over 200,000 Facebook followers and over 25,000 Twitter followers, Bulk Powders social media campaign asks users to share their fitness journey by using the hashtag #thebestme. What a better way to spread brand awareness via word-of-mouth?
Over on their Instagram account (with more than 175,000 followers) these stories are added to a global #teambulk movement, with this visual style of social media being a popular platform in order for their customers to post their gym selfies and videos and creating engagement by sharing their story via Instagram Stories.
Despite this, Bulk Powders finished in fourth place. Perhaps this is to do with the fact that despite large social followings, the brand does not have dedicated German accounts. Influencer marketing only really works when the target audience feels a connection to the influencer.
Another thing we noticed is that the brand’s Instagram profile is predominantly filled with gym pictures and fitness enthusiasts with a lot of bulk. Could they be alienating those interested in protein supplements simply as a means to a healthier lifestyle?
ESN (Elite Sports Nutrients) has been selling supplements, superfoods and fitness accessories to the European market since 2004. They may have less social media followers than Bulk Powders (Facebook (50,000+ followers), Instagram (150,000+ followers), plus Pinterest and YouTube). ESN began as a direct to consumer brand but have developed over the years to begin selling their products in-store. What might be interesting to know is that they have achieved this without expensive marketing campaigns.
There are two main marketing activities that have really helped ESN grow. The first is the strong content marketing which 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.
The second is the ‘Made in Germany’ merchandising mark that it uses. This stands as a seal of approval for German-made quality products and services. A surefire way to get into the heart's of their German audience.
Foodspring is a company that 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.”
The brand has certainly been successful in doing so.
For one, the Foodspring website experience is a visual one, offering high-quality photographs and content with a focus on clean and certified organic ingredients. Similar to ESN, it also flaunts the ‘Made in Germany’ seal of approval. However, Foodspring seems to appeal to younger audiences more and leverages off global ingredients and hip superfoods such as goji berries and coconuts from ‘pure’ and ‘natural’ environments, reflecting their clean product strategy.
In addition, Foodspring offers an online shop (although their products are also easily found in stores now), recipes, a free body check and an online coach. You can also engage with them directly online via 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 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, for example. This live marketing event had 145,000 sports enthusiasts and 1,105 exhibitors. Foodspring were right in the middle of the event in April 2019, bringing with them influential influencers and heaps of their product for interested attendees to try. Attendance ultimately meant that Foodspring managed to create sustainable experiences offline through hashtag and influencer campaigns, which aroused in visitors the need to stay in touch with the brand and product even after FIBO.
Founded in 2004, MyProtein markets itself as Europe’s number one sports brand and the number one sports nutrition brand globally. Based in Manchester and operating in over 70 countries worldwide and they boast over 2000 products in their product range.
MyProtein have 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. The brand once worked with fitness enthusiast and YouTuber, Goeerki. He basically sold the message “if you want to achieve top physical and sporty shape, this is 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.
Similarly to Foodspring, MyProtein product packaging is simple and chic in its design, and in recent years have rebranded to appeal more to the Instagram audience. This strategy seems to appeal as they ranked highly in aided brand awareness and brand consideration.
Both MyProtein and Foodspring closely aligned in brand score. MyProtein has the numbers advantage - with 8 million clients worldwide and ranking number one globally for value for money. They employ email marketing and a user-friendly website as their digital strategy and also run an affiliate marketing incentive program. Foodspring ranked second, quite possibly due to their successful Instagram influencer marketing campaign which focuses on influencers with a health and wellness audience.
However, there is a significant drop in ranking for the next two brands, who had completely different branding strategies. 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 (TV advertising & event/community building) - perhaps focusing their strategy to be more digital may increase their brand score.