This is a quick update on where things stand in the protein world. We’re not going to talk about what type you should buy (whey, casein, etc.) or how much or when to take it. Those are all articles for another day. What I do want to go through is the economics of the market and how to do your best as a consumer to make sure you’re getting what you think you’re paying for.
Everyone has access to the US Dairy Market via the USDA website. A quick search of prices will show you that over the last two years the price of Whey Concentrate has almost doubled from $0.85/lb to $1.50/lb. I’m sure there are a host of macroeconomic reasons leading to this surge in pricing, but I’m also sure it doesn’t really matter to you when the end result is that you’re facing dramatic increases in the cost of the lifeblood of your workout regimen.
So what can we as consumers do about it? The first thing is to trust what you’re buying. I’ve been in the industry long enough to know two things – there are some reputable brands out there that will do what they can to protect the quality of their products and there are others that will cheapen their product to maintain a price or lessen the impact.
A quick example of a company doing the right thing is Optimum Nutrition. They’ve been pushing their Performance Whey product which is a less expensive formula, while keeping the ingredient statement for their marquee 100% Gold Standard Whey the same or very similar. This strategy allows Optimum Nutrition to offer their customers a cheaper option if that is important to them, while maintaining the brand equity they’ve built up in their very popular Gold Standard product. Very comforting as a consumer!
Companies that are not worried about their brand equity and more focused on profits can use this as an opportunity to cheapen their product. The labeling guidelines make it doable by allowing companies to list items without proportions next to them. The only thing that matters is that they are listed in order from most to least. An example of this might be a label that states “Proprietary Protein Blend (Whey Isolate, Whey Concentrate,…)” Legally, this means the manufacturer is able to shift from a 70:30 isolate to concentrate ration to a 60:40 isolate to concentrate ratio without telling the customer. Concentrate is cheaper (80% or less actual protein) and can cause stomach issues because it contains more lactose.
The only way to really know you’re getting what you pay for is to buy single ingredient protein products, like Optimum Nutrition Hydro Whey or Dymatize ISO-100. These don’t have blends of proteins so they cannot hide behind ratios.
A way to help keep your costs down is indeed to buy blends. I’ve recently switched from NitroCore 24 to BSN Syntha-6 because it is slightly cheaper and I wanted to try something new so I could give you my take. I would say that they both taste great to me and I’d recommend either product.
Please note: I’m not saying that any one manufacturer is intentionally deceiving customers. I’m simply stating that in a period of dramatic cost increases it could prompt a manufacturer to cut corners to keep prices low and velocity out of the stores high.
To summarize, pay attention to what you’ve been buying to ensure you’re not noticing a cheapening of the product. Also, please go over your supplements, including protein, with your doctor as he can review this as a part of your holistic health plan and catch any issues that might arise.
Try it for yourself