The predicted growth equated to a five-year annual compound growth (CAGR) of 6.5%.
Within this the food and beverage segment is expected to follow a five-year CAGR of 5% to grow from $4.3bn (€3.95bn) in 2015 to $5.5bn (€5.05bn) in 2020 and the sports nutrition segment at a 9% CAGR from $1.7bn (€1.56bn) in 2015 to $2.7bn (€2.48bn) in 2020.
The growth had come despite challenges like fluctuating milk prices and relatively high prices for whey compared to other forms of protein.
These setbacks had been offset however by an increased health awareness among mass consumers, which has taken such ingredients beyond an initial athlete audience.
Products with whey now ranged from nutrition bars, beverages, infant formula and weight-management supplements as well as newer formats like confectionery, ice cream and bakery.
“Demand is being driven by change in consumer behaviour toward the healthy-food segment, which is a global phenomenon. Whey derivatives are also finding increased adoption in niche categories such as infant formula products,” the US research firm said in a release.
The industry also saw some major acquisitions and partnerships in 2014 and the first half of 2015.
“These business events marked the potential growth of the industry as new products are researched and launched in various markets across the globe. In addition, consolidation has resulted in firming up of prices, thereby resulting in improved return on investment for major companies,” the company told us.
“The innovation in the way whey protein variants are used will continue to drive the industry’s growth.”
Two other recent reports from firms Mordor Intelligence LLP and Research and Markets echoed this optimism for whey growth.
Yet Research and Markets cited market fragmentation - with major companies like Cargill, Davisco Foods and Omega Protein competing for custom - as a “major challenge” facing the whey industry.
Emerging economies, emerging demand
BCC Research said emerging economies in Asia and Latin America were also driving the demand for whey ingredients with steady economic growth in these regions increasing disposable income for their burgeoning middle class.
“This is significant especially in volume terms, with large populations in these markets.”
Commenting on the profile of these new whey consumers in Asia, BCC Research analyst Pankaj Chaubey said: “Primarily, people within the age group of 25 to 45 years are key consumers of such products. They include mainly office workers who require products to alleviate stress at regular intervals.”
He added: “In Latin America, the whey protein market generated $411 million [€380.22m] in 2014 and is expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 5.3% to reach $565 million [€521.94m] in 2020. In 2014, two countries, Brazil and Argentina, collectively accounted for nearly 39% of this market.”