Here’s the whey: Help for gym goers as sky-high protein powder prices are now on a downward trend | News24

Here's the whey: Help for gym goers as sky-high protein powder prices are now on a downward trend |  News24

Prices for protein powders are starting to fall.

Getty Images/Anna Efetova

  • Whey protein prices are starting to fall after surging in 2020 and 2021.
  • The “perfect storm” factor caused the price of whey protein to double.
  • While prices are falling, they are unlikely to return to levels a few years ago.
  • For more stories, visit Tech and Trends home page.

Whey protein powder prices in South Africa have slowly started to fall after skyrocketing over the course of 2020 and 2021 due to the “perfect storm” of issues which led to a substantial increase in product prices.

This is according to Craig Fairweather, commercial director at Dis-Chem pharmacy, which stocks sports supplement products including whey protein powder.

Fairweather said it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much prices rose over the period, because the differences depend on the company. He said it would be fair to say the prices were up at least 50%.

Heinrich Hurter, sports and training nutrition specialist at USN, the market’s leading sports nutrition brand, also said it was hard to quantify, but estimates whey protein prices roughly doubled in the six to 12 month range after lockdown restrictions went into effect. apply.

Protein powder is often used by people who exercise because high protein intake is important for building more muscles. Whey protein powder has a very high protein to calorie ratio.

Soaring prices

Various factors contributed to the dramatic increase in protein powder prices in a short period of time.

When the pandemic hit, several manufacturers of whey protein powders closed entirely due to the lockdown restrictions that were imposed. Other manufacturers are prioritizing production of other products due to expected reduced demand with many people staying home, explained Hurter.

However, the opposite is happening and demand for whey protein powders is soaring as people exercise at home, says Hurter. Prices soar because demand and supply don’t match.

Whey prices were also at a natural high when the pandemic hit. Fairweather says the price of whey is generally cyclical, where it fluctuates up and down in cycles of 18 to 36 months.

This cycle is driven by changes in demand and supply, which are dramatically affected by the demand for infant formula, which “jumps significantly”, during this period.

He said prices were at a high point in that natural cycle when the pandemic hit.

In addition, Fairweather pointed to supply chain problems caused by the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war as a factor driving up product prices.

Additionally, most whey protein powders in South Africa are imported from the United States, meaning a weaker rand contributes to the cost of importing a more expensive product. Fairweather believes that some of the price increases are passed on to consumers in the form of price increases.


There has been some lull in prices in recent months, said Fairweather and Hurter.

Hurter says that a 2kg container of USN pure whey protein has dropped from around R1 200 at most retailers to around R1 000.

“There have been changes, but nothing significant yet,” said Hurter. He said USN expects another similar price cut in the next six months.

A Dis-Chem blog post attributed the price drop to reduced demand due to high prices, a cost-of-living crisis, and the growing popularity of alternative protein powders such as plant protein.

USN released a protein powder blend that has a combination of whey protein and vegetable protein, as a way to keep prices down while still selling a quality whey product, said Hurter.

Fairweather said that it was unlikely that prices would return to levels several years ago.

“Even though it’s declining, it’s not going back to the point where it was two or three years ago,” said Fairweather, because some of the problems still exist and high rates of food inflation.”

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