The cost-of-living crisis has come for bodybuilders and fitness junkies, with prices for protein powder “more than doubling” in 12 months.
Leading online supplement store Bulk Nutrients has warned customers that whey protein prices have been particularly affected by global supply chain issues, which are “probably the worst they have been since 2019, and unfortunately, most of the pressures are not going to let up anytime soon”.
Bulk Nutrients is currently offering a 1kg bag for $43 and True Protein, a $73 bargain.
Writing in a blog post, Bulk Nutrients founder Ben Crowley said a key issue was the “whopping” five times increase in global shipping costs since 2018, which “went ballistic” during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, whey protein is one of the absolute worst-hit products when it comes to rises, with prices of raw whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI) more than doubling in a 12-month period,” he said.
“To make matters worse, unlike baby formula (where whey protein makes up a small percentage of the product) our WPC and WPI products contain between 94 per cent and 100 per cent whey protein, so massive increases mean a huge increase in the cost of production for us. The big issue here is that demand is higher than ever and due to a combination of Covid effects (like shutdowns) and natural events like droughts, there is far less product available.”
He said that even when droughts recede and farms attempt to restock, the cost for fertiliser and grain has skyrocketed because of the war in Ukraine. Therefore, their input costs are much greater.
“This explains why some companies are literally offering no stock whatsoever, with those who can get stock having to raise their prices significantly,” he said.
Mr Crowley warned that some supplement companies were changing suppliers but “not all appear to be communicating to their customers when supply and country of origin are changing”.
“Our strict standards mean we won’t consider using a WPI when it contains any more than 1-2 per cent carbohydrates,” he said.
“It’s clear that some companies are using a WPI which contains around 5 per cent carbohydrates, yet their labels remain unchanged, so the customer has no visibility around what they are consuming.”
Mr Crowley stated that prices will remain high until 2023, so people who are unable to afford whey proteins could look into plant alternatives like pea or rice-based protein powders.
“While the pricing of these products has increased, the rises are far less significant than what we have seen in the dairy industry,” he said.
“If you don’t want to ditch whey altogether (which is understandable) then you could consider going one for one and getting a plant protein in addition to your whey. Many people have adopted this ‘flexitarian’ method for lifestyle reasons well before we saw any increases, where they alternate between whey and plant proteins.”
TrueProtein chief financial officer Lachlan Cornwell told news.com.au there was “no question that the dramatic upswing in the cost of dry whey has put additional financial pressure on our business”.
But he said the company had “tried our best to avoid being myopic in terms of focusing purely on short-term supply constraints and the consequent cost implications”.
“The most important thing for us is delivering products of the highest quality and efficacy,” he said.
“When you refuse to compromise on these promises to your customers, you have to be innovative in other parts of your business to find ways of offsetting the impact of short-term supply shocks. Given we produce our products in-house in Sydney and are not at the mercy of global contract manufacturers, we have been able to navigate this challenge with the support of our suppliers.”
Dayne Hudson, a nutrition coach, said that there were many factors that contributed to the whey crisis.
In addition to lockdowns and droughts, as outlined by Mr Crowley, another reason was simply “there’s less cheese”.
“Whey protein comes from cheese and has always been a surplus product – we consumed 26 million metric tons of cheese in 2019,” Mr Hudson said.
“But the whey supply chain stopped during the lockdowns which meant top dairy-producing countries like America and Australia had less manpower on the farms. Some even shut down entirely.”
Worse still, cheese consumption dropped – particularly at restaurants, largely because they were shut – and so dairy manufacturers halted their cheese production and focused on other dairy products.
“Another kick in the teeth for whey protein production,” Mr Hudson said.
He also recommended that people who can’t afford the rising price of protein from plants switch to them.
“We need to keep consuming enough protein – one to two grams per kilogram of body weight per day – to help keep us full, prevent overeating, and ensure we stay on track with our fat loss so we look as Mickey Mouse as possible,” he said.
This comes after CommBank research last week revealed that nearly four out of four Australian businesses were buying more from domestic companies in an effort to solve supply chain issues.
“It would appear businesses are not waiting for supply chain issues to ease, but rather are adapting with new procurement processes and asset management,” CommBank business banking executive Mike Vacy-Lyle said in a statement.
“Many businesses are also extending the life of current equipment or sourcing cheaper products and brands not normally considered, to overcome supply chain problems.”
According to CommBank’s survey, approximately half of businesses experienced delays when purchasing passenger vehicles.
Supply chain issues have impacted the most the distribution, retail and hospitality industries. The worst affected industry was the construction industry, with 86% of respondents anticipating higher costs in the next year.
Renae Bunster, a Perth-based hot-sauce entrepreneur, shared her story about how she was forced into alcoholic drinks to diversify and reduce her export dependence.
In recent months, shoppers have complained about price increases or shelf shortages that have affected everything from grocery staples such as iceberg lettuce and paper towels to over-the counter remedies like Lemsip.
And as tensions rise between Taiwan and China, experts have warned of further disruptions to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
David Leaney, an international supply chain management lecturer at Australian National University, told news.com.au last week the popular maritime trade route wasn’t just used by countries in the area.
“Even if you’re going from America to Australia, you usually go via the South China Sea because there are other trade reasons to do that – drop things off, pick things up,” he said.
“So even if your final destination isn’t China, a lot of ships go via the South China Sea and a big chunk of those go through that little strait between Taiwan and China.”