Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., a supplier of kefir cultured dairy products, today announced that Protein Kefir, the company's latest kefir innovation, has expanded distribution to Harris Teeter, and more retailers will be carrying the product within the coming months.

In addition to the 12 live, active kefir cultures and the tart and tangy taste of the cultured milk smoothie, each serving of Protein Kefir packs 20 grams of protein, which is considered the optimal amount by sports nutritionists to aid muscle repair, according to the company.

"Protein and probiotics are two of the hottest food trends right now, and our Protein Kefir is a powerful combination of those two features," said Lifeway President and Chief Executive Officer Julie Smolyansky in a statement. "We've developed the ultimate functional beverage that appeals to a wide array of different consumers. Our Protein Kefir supports the activities of serious athletes whether you're a SoulCycle enthusiast, CrossFit fanatic, or simply an everyday consumer looking for better food choices."

The growing market demand for convenient protein food products drove Lifeway's decision to develop Protein Kefir, it says. According to a recent IFIC's Food & Health Survey report, 58 percent of consumers considered whether packaged food and beverage products contained protein when making purchasing decisions U.S. sales of packaged foods with protein-related claims on their labels rose to $7.5 billion in the year ended Feb. 15, 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal . That is a gain of more than 50 percent from the same timeframe four years ago, according to Chicago-based research firm Nielsen, and demonstrates a rapidly growing market demand for accessible, high-quality protein food options, Lifeway says.

Lifeway Protein Kefir is available in four flavors — mixed berry, vanilla, banana and salted caramel. Each 16-ounce bottle contains two servings and is free from artificial flavors and ingredients. 

In addition to Harris Teeter stores throughout the South Atlantic, Lifeway Foods also is serving Protein Kefir at New York City's Taste of Tennis food and tennis event, where local chefs and professional tennis player come together to celebrate food and sport, the company adds.