Sixty-one percent of consumers in the U.S. say they are seeking more protein in their diets, according to David Portalatin, vice president, food industry analyst, The NPD Group Inc. Portalatin spoke Wednesday at the first Feed Strategy Conference, presented by WATT Global Media at the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta.

Plant-based proteins have become mainstream in diets in the U.S., Portalatin said. While the majority of Americans is seeking more protein, not all of them want to consume more meat to reach that goal; 14 percent of the population consumes plant-based alternatives, although 86 percent do not consider themselves vegetarian or vegan, he said. Protein-rich foods are often low in sugar and carbohydrates, which may be fueling the want for more protein.

‘Quest for purity’

Thirty-five percent of Americans’ eating occasions (including meals and snacks) include at least one food item labeled as “all natural” or “made with natural ingredients.” Portalatin said this means consumers are looking for a “path to purity” in their foods and are seeking out authenticity and food items they perceive as “clean.”

“What is it around where you play in the supply chain that would enable the ultimate end producer to deliver on this notion of purity … that the consumer is looking for?” he asked the audience, which included nutritionists, marketers, poultry producers and animal feed manufacturers.

Chicken still the winner

Chicken remains the primary choice for the “center-of-the-plate” animal protein, Portalatin said, and he believes the decline in beef consumption may have leveled off. While egg consumption is growing, eggs have yet to regain the place they once held in our diets.

Those center-of-the-plate animal proteins are present in slightly fewer meals than they were a decade ago. They are being replaced by mixed dishes popular in Asian, Mexican and Italian cuisines.

Feed Strategy Conference was presented by WATT Global Media and Feed Strategy and sponsored by Alltech, Borregaard LignoTech, BV Science, Delacon, Evonik and PMI.