March 17/Chicago/PRWEB -- The majority of U.S. consumers (78%) agree that protein contributes to a healthy diet, and more than half of adults say they want more of it in their diets, reports The NPD Group. In their quest for more protein, about half of consumers say non-meat sources are best, and the other half consider meat and fish the best source of protein, according to recent NPD food and beverage research.

Those consumers willing to look beyond meat in order to meet their protein needs are motivated by health-related reasons, finds the recently released NPD report "Protein Perceptions and Needs." The reasons often mentioned by Flexible Protein Users as barriers to getting more protein are that many sources of protein contain fat, are high in calories or are too expensive. NPD reports that some of these perceived barriers could be at play for the beef category, which is not seeing the same consumption increases seen with other protein sources, like eggs, chicken, yogurt and nuts/seeds. The challenges for beef might be more about perception, since nearly half of primary grocery shoppers view animal protein as the best source of protein.

“Consumers want more protein in their diets. In fact, the only issue that U.S. adults are now checking on the Nutrition Facts label on the back of foods and beverages is the amount of protein,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and author of Eating Patterns in America. “While our interest in protein is growing, we’re looking for alternatives to meat. Many of us are looking to lower the cost of our protein sources, and animal meat is generally more expensive than plant-based protein, which explains the growth in Greek yogurt and other alternate protein sources.”

While there is widespread agreement among consumers that protein is necessary in a healthy diet, there is much confusion over the optimal amount of protein that should be consumed on a typical day. NPD finds that more than three-quarters of primary grocery shoppers say protein contributes to a healthy diet, but almost as many say they are unsure of the recommended daily amount.

“It is important for food and beverage marketers to highlight wherever possible that their products are a good source of lean protein. In fact, the protein study we conducted showed certain messages about protein resonated more than others,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst and co-author of the "Protein Perceptions and Needs" report. “The study also found nearly half of primary grocery shoppers have purchased protein-enriched foods, and many are willing to pay, or have already paid a premium for these products.”