Posted by Ben Crowley in Feature Articles
Estimated reading time: 9mins
As we live in a truly global economy, any restraint or issue that impacts the movement of items around the world has huge flow-on effects.
Shipping has increased by a whopping 5x compared to 2018 pricing.
The graph below shows how stable shipping prices were for years before they went ballistic.
The shipping issues are a combination of huge demand, global lockdowns, and limited supply. Using China as an example (where most amino acids are made) entire ports have been shut down. This is set to ease somewhat but not until 2023.
The shipping issue is made even worse as companies compete to get space on ships. Not only are goods far more expensive to ship, but everything is taking far longer to move around. What used to take 6 weeks from order to delivery in a shipping container, may now take up to 26 weeks!
To combat this, companies are needing to hold more stock, and in some cases, companies are going out of stock due to the delays.
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.
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% and 100% 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. When droughts subside, farms try to restock, however, the cost of fertilizer and grain is significantly impacted by the war in Ukraine, so their input costs are much higher.
This explains why some companies are literally offering no stock whatsoever, with those who can get stock having to raise their prices significantly.
Some supplement companies are changing suppliers, however, not all appear to be communicating to their customers when supply and country of origin are changing. At Bulk Nutrients, we are big believers in transparency, whether it’s printing our regular lab tests or sharing COAs from suppliers.
If we consider the variation in WPI specs, you’ll get an idea of why this is so important. Our strict standards mean we won’t consider using a WPI when it contains any more than 1-2% carbohydrates. It’s clear that some companies are using a WPI which contains around 5% carbohydrates, yet their labels remain unchanged, so the customer has no visibility around what they are consuming.
From what industry suppliers are saying and other information we are getting externally, we expect pricing to remain high into 2023. Our real goal through this period is to keep pricing as low as possible to take the pressure off customers, and to ensure that we maintain supply in a reliable form.
This is much harder than it appears, as we’ve experienced even greater raw price rises in the last 2 months, however, we have decided not to pass on any more pricing increases to customers.
Traditionally as a company if your demand goes up, you just ask for more product from your supplier however that is impossible now with nothing in reserve anywhere, and it is because we have strong, long-term supplier relationships that we are able to continue to consistently supply the high-quality product that meets our food safety and macronutrient requirements.
As a business, we have always been open and transparent with our customers, and when we experience any cost relief, whether through shipping costs returning to ‘normal’ or increased supply in the market increasing competition and therefore (hopefully!) reducing the cost of the raw product, we will pass that back on to our customers. We would love to be specific with dates, but as there is still so much uncertainty in the market, we can’t confidently indicate when that will be.
If you are particularly sensitive to pricing one solution is to switch from WPI to WPC, or consider using a blended product like Protein Matrix+.
At over 80% protein this is still exceptionally pure, and a digestive enzyme helps relieve any symptoms for people who are concerned about lactose.
While the pricing of these products has increased, the rises are far less significant than what we have seen in the dairy industry.
If you don’t want to ditch whey altogether (which is understandable) then you could consider going 1 for 1 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.
If you haven’t tried plant proteins for years or have tried other alternatives and been disappointed, we are very proud of the purity, taste, and texture of our Earth protein.
We realise that with pricing going through the roof, people look for cheaper alternatives. From what we have observed through customer lab tests, cheaper eBay protein from unfamiliar brands is often underdosed.
The pic below shows a lab report when a customer in Australia recently sent an eBay sourced WPI to the laboratory. The customer purchased this product on the basis of it being a WPI with 90% protein with carbohydrates at 5%.
In reality, their WPI contains less protein and far more carbohydrates than our WPC, and it's way below label claims of 90% protein, with carbohydrate levels 3 times that as listed!
eBay sourced WPI (with label claims of 90% protein) Lab report:
|FC0002||Moisture (Vacuum Drying)||6.6||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0004||Protein (Kjeldahl)||68.6||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0007||Total Sugars||5.9||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0022||Total Fat||6.1||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0022||Monounsaturated Fatty Acids||1.6||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0022||Polyunsatutated Fatty Acids||0.5||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0022||Saturated Fatty Acid||3.7||g/100 g||VIC|
|FC0022||Trans Fatty Acids||0.3||g/100 g||VIC|
If you aren’t interested in lab testing your product, we’d suggest you look closely at the lab tests a company supplies, confirm how many have been done, and how regular are they. A single lab test 4 years old doesn’t have much value.
In contrast, Bulk Nutrients has over 300 lab tests from the last 5 years consistently published on our website, you can view the history of them here.
If you have a whey protein product you’d like to test, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
While we can’t offer magical relief on pricing, we can make the following promises which are consistent with the reputation we have earned over the last 15 years.