DuPont Nutrition & Health released the results of its multi-phase “Beverage Key Drivers of Liking Study” which shows that consumers rank taste as their most important criteria when choosing a high-protein beverage.

According to the study, protein content ranked second, while protein source was significantly less important.  The study was conducted to better understand consumer taste preferences in the competitive $2.7 billion U.S. retail ready-to-drink (RTD), high-protein beverage category.

A trained descriptive panel profiled more than 65 commercial high-protein (>8g of protein per 237 ml/serving, with the maximum level being 20g/237ml serving) beverages, containing various sources of protein. Descriptive profiling enabled DuPont to create a “sensory map” of the category, which demonstrated how much flavor diversity exists in the high-protein beverage category. Following descriptive profiling, consumer panels in three U.S. cities evaluated 20 beverages — both commercial and DuPont prototypes — occupying unique spots on the sensory map.

Consumers perceived the ideal protein content level to be 25 grams of protein per serving. This finding was consistent across consumer segments that indicated they either used such beverages to support weight loss, as a supplement before or after exercise, or as a meal or snack alternative.

Another key finding from the study pointed to the value of blending proteins, particularly soy and dairy proteins. Ready-to-drink, high-protein beverages formulated with blends of dairy and soy protein performed better in flavor-liking than all dairy- or all plant-based beverages. Of the top seven scoring beverages in the study, six were formulated with blends of dairy and soy proteins.