Marketers of protein powders have been expanding their flavor assortments, especially on the sweet side of the spectrum, with SKUs such as chocolate lava cake, cookies and cream, blueberry cobbler, and banana nut bread proliferating in response to consumer demand. Small wonder that licensed brands connected to candy, cereal, cookies, donuts, soft drinks, and similar sweet flavors are jumping into this space.
When we last covered this then-emerging phenomenon in August of 2020, brands such as Hostess, Pebbles, and Cold Stone Creamery were at the forefront of the trend. In the three years since then, the number of licensing deals has mushroomed, with Peeps and Cinnabon being among the most recent entrants:
- Ghost announced a collaboration with Cinnabon in March 2023, offering both whey and vegan protein powders that it says taste like a fresh Cinnabon cinnamon roll. The company has been an active player in the collaboration space, with its other licenses including Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, Sour Patch Kids, Bubblicious, Sonic Drive-In (focused on the flavors of its slushes and other beverages), Warheads, Swedish Fish, Nutter Butter, and Welch’s. New flavor extensions and limited-edition flavors are introduced regularly.
- Bodytech, a private label of The Vitamin Shoppe, launched its new Peeps-branded, marshmallow-flavored, limited-edition whey protein isolate, also in March. The introduction was timed to the Easter selling season.
- Ryse is another key player in the space, launching products with Bazooka in 2023 in one of its newest partnerships. In 2022, it expanded its presence in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com, placing seven products, six of them licensed, on the chain’s shelves nationally. They included two SKUs of SunnyD, as well as SKUs tied to Ring Pop, Kool-Aid, Jet-Puffed Marshmallow, and Moon Pie.
- MyProtein introduced a limited-edition chocolate hazelnut flavor with Keventers, a dairy brand in India, in August 2022, as a follow-up to a coffee flavor the two brands had previously released in that market. In July 2022, the company partnered for four limited-edition flavors tied to candy brand Jelly Belly, including two fruit varieties as well as bubblegum and tutti-frutti. In June 2022, MyProtein debuted a range of fruit flavors with Vimto, a U.K.-based soft drink brand; the two companies first partnered in 2021.
- Japanese brand Be Legend launched two new products with candy brand Milky in 2022, representing the latest limited-edition collaboration between the two marketers. The new flavors, which feature Milky’s character mascot Peko Chan on the packaging, are Matcha Milky and Strawberry Milky. In 2021, Be Legend partnered with Pablo, the Japanese specialty cheese tart brand, for a flavor that utilizes the same apricot jam and cream cheese Pablo uses in its recipe.
- GNC, which sells most of the products mentioned here, has also paired with licenses for private-label powders in its own right. It launched a range of Jolly Rancher flavors for its Beyond Raw LIT line last year, adding cherry to the mix early this year. In March 2023, it introduced its third limited-edition Girl Scout cookie flavor, Toast-Yay, under the AMP Wheybolic brand, following a limited release of an Adventureful flavor the previous year. The two brands have been working together since 2020; that year GNC released SKUs tied to the Scouts’ Thin Mints, Coconut Caramel, S’mores, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Lemon cookies under two of the retailer’s labels, GNC Total Lean and GNC AMP.
- Dymatize paired with Dunkin in late 2021, adding that brand to its Flintstones and Pebbles cereals range. The initial release included cappuccino and mocha latte flavors, both part of its ISO100 protein powder line.
Note that some of these deals include protein drinks or supplements in addition to protein powders.
While much of the licensing activity in this category centers on brands with distinct flavors, non-foods licensing is on the rise as well, especially in the entertainment/character sector. In Japan, for example, Ueni Trading Company’s My Routine brand secured rights to Hatsune Miku for three new flavors of protein powders introduced this spring, including chocolate, grape, and green onion. The latter takes its inspiration from the Japanese leek, which is a symbol of the character.
BodyTech paired with Warner Bros. in fall 2022 for a line of flavors inspired by DC Comics characters Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Black Adam, with others planned for the future, each with a different formula and flavor. Be Legend, a frequent collaborator, has paired with a number of anime, manga, and kawaii properties, including One Piece, Street Fighter, Naruto, Monster Hunter, The First Step, and Hello Kitty. And Ryse sells a protein powder tied to Godzilla, through a deal announced in 2021.
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