Have you ever wondered why is protein powder so expensive? Me too. I did some research on that so you don’t have to. Below you can find information on how much does a protein powder cost and what are the factors influencing the price. I also compared two protein powders, with different price tags to give you an idea what to look at before making a decision. Finally there are 4 easy steps that anyone could take to save up a little bit.
Why is protein powder so expensive? The price reflects the high cost of the main ingredient - protein. Other factors such as increased demand, manufacturing costs, inflation and global economy in general play a role.
Cost of Protein Powder - Overview
Unlike fats and carbs, protein is a pricy ingredient that provides essential nutrients for the human body. Protein-rich foods, such as meat and poultry, fish and dairy, pulses and mushrooms are more expensive to produce than fruits and vegetables, for example.
Protein powder undergoes several processing steps to remove the fat and lactose from the whey protein, resulting in a concentrated protein. The cost of this processing can be high due to the equipment, energy, and labor required. Additives such as flavors, minerals and vitamins also raise the cost.
High-quality protein powders undergo additional testing and quality control measures to ensure that they are pure and free of contaminants. These additional steps can add to the cost of production.
Besides the cost of the main ingredient - protein, the price tag often shows packaging, marketing and shipping costs. Typically, protein powder businesses set their prices in accordance with what consumers are prepared to spend, and it so happens that some individuals are willing to spend a lot of money on protein supplements. This is particularly true of protein supplements that are promoted by famous people and elite athletes. These costs are all passed down on the customer.
Other factors such as global economic trends, and climate change also influence the price.
How much does a protein powder cost?
Prices typically range from $0.78 to $7.27 per serving, or from $23.75 to $89.99 for a container, however this might change depending on where you shop.
Production costs explained
Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein from either animal or plant foods. There are three main forms of protein powders:
- Protein concentrates generally include 60%–80% protein and may contain 20%–40% fat and carbohydrates. They are made by extracting the protein from foods with the use of heat, acid, or enzymes.
- Protein isolates have higher concentrations of protein - around 90% -95%. They are produced by removing fat and carb molecules from the concentrate by a thorough filtering process.
- Protein hydrolysates are made by further heating proteins with an acid or enzymes, which dissolves the bonds holding amino acids together.
Production price for these three types of powders increases from 1 to 3, so hydrolysates are usually the most expensive on the market. There are some speculations that hydrolysates are the easiest to absorb and could help build the muscle faster. Although, the results are not significantly different, and if you are willing to save up a little bit, you go for simple concentrate or isolated powders.
Inflation and economic crisis
Other objective factors that influence protein powder cost are global economy trends, pandemic, and even climate change.
The pandemic, war in the Ukraine, economic crisis, ingredient and labor shortages caused by these global processes had a huge impact on supply-chain disruptions. All these increased not only the cost of raw ingredients in protein powder production, but also the total price for manufacturing.
The above disruptions might pass over some time, but there is another factor that won't go away any time soon - CLIMATE CHANGE. Whey protein powder, which is extracted from milk, greatly relies on the milk production prices. Cost of whey protein has increased significantly lately, as it is more and more expensive to feed dairy cows and produce the same amount of milk at an increased temperature.
Cheap Protein vs Expensive Protein
As mentioned above, protein powder price varies roughly from $1 to $7 per portion. To help you make an informed choice, let’s discuss some differences that cheap and expensive powders may have.To give you a better understanding of how to compare cheap and expensive protein powders, there are two products discussed below, so keep reading.
Comparing cheap vs more expensive one
Expensive Protein Powder - Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate
- Diet Type (best for): Build muscle, Recovery, Cutting (Weight loss)
- Suitable for Vegans: No
- Protein Source: Whey Protein Isolate
- Serving size: 33-34,5 grams
- Price per serving: $2
- Protein-by-Weight Ratio (%): 85%
- Protein: 28 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1-3 grams (depends on flavor)
- Fat: 0-1 gram (depends on flavor)
- Added Sugar: 0 gram
- Calories per serving: 120
- Company Founded: 2015
- Recommended by Athletes: Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Terron Beckham.
Cheap protein powder - Organic Protein™ Plant Based Protein Powder
- Diet Type (best for):Build muscle, Recovery, Cutting (Weight loss)
- Suitable for Vegans:YES
- Protein Source: Organic protein blend: organic pea protein, organic cocoa, organic brown rice, organic chia seeds
- Serving size: 46 grams
- Price per serving: $1.3
- Protein-by-Weight Ratio (%): 46%
- Protein: 21 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7-16 grams (depends on flavor)
- Fat: 4-5 gram (depends on flavor)
- Added Sugar: 0 gram
- Calories per serving: 140-190 (depends on flavor)
- Company Founded: 2008
- Recommended by: Adela Guerra
photo by @healththeory
4 Tips to Identify if The Cost Matches The Value
Based on the product reviews above, I hope you’ll be able to choose the most suitable protein powder for you. However, here are the five easy steps that will give you additional help to compare whether the price tag matches the value. Your wallet will thank me later:
1. Set your price limits
Determine your budget: Before you start shopping, decide on a budget that you can comfortably afford. This will help you narrow down your options and prevent you from overspending.
2. Plant based or not
If you are vegan or vegetarian, or trying to save the most on the protein powder, consider choosing plant-based options. On the other hand, for those wanting to consume a product with a better amino acid profile whey protein powder is the best option.
3. Read the label
Read the label carefully and contrast the product's nutritional information with those of other, more expensive options you are considering before selecting your next protein powder. You might possibly come across a good offer. Are they comparable in terms of protein content? Is the protein used to make the product complete or incomplete? A high-quality product might have 70–90% protein, while a cheaper one would only have 30–40%.
4. The brand
Price tags often reflect the brand’s reputation, but sometimes products are overpriced by the company’s marketing scheme. Try to find a balance between these, be critical and less influential. Compare the prices of the similar protein powders and try to understand what is behind the higher costs. It could be better quality control or trustworthy certification that you don’t want to save on.
Is protein powder worth the money?
Protein powder is a good and efficient source of protein for people that have specific fitness goals, or for those who simply cannot consume enough protein through food. The price can be quite affordable and the benefits are more than worth it.
How much does protein powder cost?
Protein powder price varies depending on the protein content and type in the product, also whether there are any supplements added and the brand that produces the powder. Overall, the price per portion can be somewhere between $1-$7.
The cost of protein powder may vary because of multiple reasons. Knowing what could be behind the price tag is helpful to make an informed decision. Try using the 4 steps and comment below if it helped you choose wiser.
- Does Protein Build Muscle Without Working Out
- What to Mix Protein Powder With
- How Many Protein Shakes a Day
- How to Make Protein Shakes Taste Better
- Can You Mix Creatine With Protein Powder
- Collagen Protein vs Whey Protein
- Whey Protein vs Pea Protein
- Best Soy Protein Powder
- Best Supplement for Muscle Soreness
- Nutritional Quality and Biological Application of Mushroom Protein as a Novel Protein Alternative // PMC: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10088739/
- The 8 Best Whey Protein Powders of 2023 // Jillian Kubala: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-whey-protein-powder
- The role of protein hydrolysates for exercise-induced skeletal muscle recovery and adaptation: a current perspective // PMC: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8061049/
- Why is protein powder so expensive now? // Gene Bruno: https://www.nutrasciencelabs.com/blog/why-is-protein-so-expensive-now
- Impacts of Climate Change on Milk Production in the United States // The Professional Geographer: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00330124.2014.921017
Oleksandr is a professional fitness nutritionist, certified by FPA (Fitness Professional Association). Oleksandr adheres to the principles of evidence-based dietetics and instills in his clients a healthy relationship with food - without strict prohibitions on favorite foods and regular disruptions. His main task – not only get a result for you, but also maintain it for many years, enjoying tasty and delicious food.