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Explore the influence of global economic downturns, high inflation rates, and geopolitical events like the war in Ukraine on protein prices, leading to what’s been termed “Protein powder inflation.”
variety of flavored protein powder in glasses

Factors Affecting Cost of Manufacturing Protein Powder Supplements

If you’ve been paying attention over the past couple of years, you haven’t asked the question, “Is protein powder expensive?” but rather, Why is protein powder so expensive?”  

The reasons are linked to notable rises in specific expenses related to protein, such as inflation, disruptions in the supply chain, the effects of climate change, agricultural expenses, costs associated with packaging materials, and challenges in securing loans. This is particularly true of dairy proteins such as whey and casein, leading to a protein price increase. 

Let’s dive into these factors and how they impact the supplement manufacturing cost for brand owners. 

 

Raw Materials  

The cost of dairy proteins has increased. To begin with, this is a function of the general economy and inflation worldwide. In addition, pandemic-related supply chain issues have caused problems across numerous industries. Furthermore, climate change and the upkeep cost for cows have also impacted the price increase of dairy proteins.   

In 2022, the production of Whey in the U.S. was the highest it’s been in over a decade. Rising prices for whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate caused demand to lessen, resulting in over-stock for many manufacturers. This led to lower production in both the US and Europe throughout 2023. Now that demand has picked up, we are dealing with the lack of availability which is driving up costs. 

The Economy 

In 2022, and to some extent in 2023, there was a decrease in global output resulting from downturns in China and Russia. Likewise, in the United States, consumer spending did not meet expectations. Now consider that the pandemic-weakened global economy was further impacted by high inflation worldwide, which triggered a tightening of financial conditions. Furthermore, COVID-19 outbreaks and the war in Ukraine contributed to significant economic slowdowns in China and Ukraine, respectively.[1] All these factors contributed to what became known as Protein powder inflation.” 

Climate Change 

Erratic climate changes caused global milk production to decline. This impacted all dairy products, including dairy-based proteins. Excessive temperature and humidity stressed dairy cows, so they did not produce sufficient milk. This was particularly the case in the summer months and significantly impacted operations in hotter climates[2]. In the United States, production losses affect various industries that use milk—but not all industries were impacted the same. Preferential availability was likely given to the food industry, while the dietary supplement industry had to take what it could get.    

Farm-related Costs 

The cost of feeding dairy cows has also increased. According to research published by Penn State Extension, the cost of feeding cows was around $5.50 but is now around $7.09. Other data likewise indicate that feed prices increased year-over-year by 16%. High fertilizer prices and drought conditions have negatively impacted feed grain and hay supplies.[3]  

Another contributing factor impacting farm-related costs is the difficulty of finding workers who will process dairy products and transport them to the market. A potential solution for the agricultural labor shortage is to reform immigrant labor policies to allow dairy farms to hire H-2A visa workers immigrants for temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. However, as of this writing, the dairy industry is excluded from the program[4]  

 

The Supplement Manufacturing Process   

Naturally, the supplement manufacturing process has been affected by the rising cost of protein powders, including the equipment needed to process the protein and the human resources required to complete the job. While this is a static cost and doesn’t contribute to the recent cost increase in protein powders as finished goods, a related consideration is borrowing money.  

Borrowing money has become more expensive for manufacturers, so expanding operations to meet demand is more difficult. One of the reasons for this is that banks tightened their lending standards as the pandemic continued.[5]   

 

Supplement Packaging  

Pandemic and economy-related issues impacted the dietary supplement industry, making it more difficult to get tubs, lids, and other supplement packaging materials. While this situation has improved over the past year, there are residual supply chain effects impacting manufacturing and costs while our industry and others do their best to catch up with the shortages. 

 

Certification and Testing  

Per the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, contract manufacturers of dietary supplements are required to comply with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). To ensure compliance, reputable manufacturers like Vitaquest have earned NSF GMP certification, which requires annual GMP audits. Likewise, Vitaquest holds the globally recognized FSSC 22000 certification for food safety, which is relatively rare in the supplement industry.  

The testing procedures and quality control measures implemented in the powder manufacturing process include physical measurements of bulk density, particle size, and moisture content and chemical testing for potency and impurities using various techniques including HPLC, ICP-MS, and Protein analysis.  Various tests are conducted after manufacturing, including identity, potency, micro, and heavy metal tests.  

Naturally, maintaining certifications and conducting testing have costs associated with them. Like the manufacturing process itself, however, these are static costs and don’t contribute to the recent cost increase in protein powders as finished goods. 

 

Conclusion  

Therefore, the reason behind the high cost of protein powder lies in the recent surge in expenses related to protein raw materials, stemming from factors like inflation, supply chain disruptions, impacts of climate change, agricultural expenses, costs associated with packaging components, and challenges in securing loans. Although the environment is still challenging and competition remains fierce, choosing the right powder supplement manufacturing company can make all the difference. 

For over 45 years, Vitaquest has provided nutraceutical companies with unparalleled dietary supplement contract manufacturing, packaging, and fulfillment solutions. Our meticulous supply chain process ensures efficiency, while our unmatched procurement capabilities secure the finest quality raw materials at optimal pricing for your product formulations. 

Whether you’re a newcomer to the industry or aiming to diversify your product range, Vitaquest possesses the expertise, cutting-edge facilities, and solutions needed to swiftly and effectively turn your protein powder supplement idea into reality.  

For more information on how we can help you Deliver What’s Next in protein supplement manufacturing, call 800-526-9095 to speak to one of our representatives or request a competitive nutraceutical manufacturing price quote!

 

Frequently Asked Questions  

Q: Can Vitaquest make allergen-free, organic, naturally flavored & sweetened powder?  

Yes, absolutely. Vitaquest can also make kosher, non-GMO, Halal, clean-label and sport-certified products.  

Q: Why is naturally flavored powder more expensive?  

Extracting natural flavors is more difficult and requires heavy processing compared to the artificial route. Nevertheless, consumers prefer natural flavors over artificial flavors. 

Q: How big is the powder supplement market?  

Market research[6] has indicated that the global powder dietary supplements market is currently valued at $35.9 billion and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 7.7%, to reach $75.2 billion by 2032. 

Q: What types of powder supplements are available?  

The possibilities are endless. Here are a few: 

  • Pre & post workout powder manufacturing  
  • Collagen powder manufacturing  
  • Greens, superfoods & whole food blends  
  • Probiotic powder manufacturing  
  • Meal replacement powders  
  • Plant-derived proteins   
  • Energy & performance enhancement powders  
  • Multivitamin powders  
  • Advanced fiber supplements  
  • Antioxidants    

Q: Do authorities regulate powder supplements?  

All dietary supplements in the USA are regulated by the FDA.  

  

 

 References

[1] World Economic Outlook Update: Gloomy and More Uncertain. International Monetary Fund. July 2022. 

[2] Mauger GS, Bauman Y, Nennich T, Salathé EP. Impacts of climate change on milk production in the United States. Professional Geographer. 2014 

[3] Higher inputs costs and feed costs face producers. Beef Magazine. Aug 15, 2022. https://www.beefmagazine.com/beef/higher-inputs-costs-and-feed-costs-face-producers 

[4] Treidler L. Wisconsin dairy leaders call on US Senate to fix labor shortages by changing immigration policy. Wisconsin Public Radio. October 7, 2022. 

[5] See the April and July 2020 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (SLOOS) conducted by the Federal Reserve. https://www.federalreserve.gov/data/sloos.htm. 

[6] Powder Dietary Supplements Market. Fact.MR. Retrieved January 11, 2024 from https://www.factmr.com/report/48/powder-dietary-supplements-market. 

Kristine
Halliwell
Purchasing Director

Kristine Halliwell is the Director of Purchasing at Vitaquest, bringing over a decade of experience to her role. With a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Science and a Master of Business Administration from Montclair State University, Kristine has excelled in various positions within the company since joining in 2012. From formulating new products, transitioning to customer service, and now overseeing the purchasing department, her combined expertise in different fields helps her to excel in her current position. Recognized with the Proud award in 2022, Kristine’s journey showcases her versatility and dedication. She leads her team in securing quality materials at competitive prices to drive manufacturing and meet customer expectations.

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