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Sports nutrition embraces holistic approach to health [Interview]

Helping consumers return to safely practicing physical activity when the pandemic is over and aiming for higher levels of exercise across Europe are some of the post COVID-19 strategies ESSNA is focusing on. Ahead of his presentation, Dr Luca Bucchini, Vice-chair of ESSNA, the European Sports and Specialist Nutrition Alliances, and a director of EuroFIR told us why a holistic approach to health is also gaining ground in the sports nutrition category.
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What are ESSNA’s main objectives and plans for the future?

“ESSNA is the voice of the sports nutrition industry. Our aim is to create a better understanding of our industry for the public, policymakers, and regulators, so that our members can be supported by a favourable policy and regulatory environment. This is necessary in order to allow our members to deliver safe, innovative and effective products to our physically active consumers. We also tackle unfair competition and, when needed, step in to protect consumers, which includes efforts to tackle inadvertent doping. The world of sports and nutrition is evolving fast, so our future means evolution of the regulatory and policy environment as well.”

How has COVID-19 impacted the industry and your plans as an association this year? Has it shifted your priorities?

“100% of our members reported a drop in sales due to COVID-19, although, the sector has since rebounded. What did we do? ESSNA quickly developed a COVID-19 strategy which we put into practice, whilst also making sure not to lose sight of our other goals. For example, the European Commission is still working on its Farm to Fork strategy, and we need to be involved. ESSNA is also advocating an exit strategy for our sector, which includes returning to safely practicing physical activity and, when the pandemic is over, aiming for higher levels of exercise across Europe. I think the priority is a full recovery for our sector, as well as for the broader fitness community.”

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How has the active and performance nutrition market changed? Do you see any changes in new product development? Was there an increase in sales in any of the categories, specifically?

“First of all, the growth of e-commerce has accelerated. Moreover, consumers have also bought less products in convenience formats, and of course have looked for immune system support. Interest in immune support is linked to the pandemic, but I think there was and is a trend towards a more holistic approach to the physically active personas well as to the athlete, and sports nutrition products can help.”

“From a physical and psychological point of view, one must be healthy in order to exercise, and I think that's an area where we will continue to see new products and ideas. It is true that an athlete or a physically active person who finds that psychological stress is affecting their exercise, may purchase an ordinary food supplement to help maintain a good balance. However, some doubts may still exist as to whether it is really suitable for them, given their level of physical activity and often, participation in competitive events. Another area where new product development is starting to feature, ise-sports.”

What new ingredients are you seeing in sport nutrition products? Has CBD entered this market?

“Probiotics have been discussed for a while; they have enormous potential which is slowly starting to emerge. Vitamin D is of course enjoying a great moment, and I would say that botanical extracts can grow further with new ideas and applications. Plant proteins from new sources continue to grow as well, and I think we are seeing more questions about how sustainable and nutritionally adequate protein sources are. Of course, animal proteins can – and will – fight back with good arguments. CBD is entering the market and although progress is being made, I would say that there is still sufficient uncertainty holding it back.”

What are your predictions for the active and performance nutrition market over the next 3-5 years? 

“Active and performance nutrition will remain sports nutrition in most of Europe for years to come, and I don't think there will be such a big differentiation between active nutrition and performance nutrition. I think we'll see more effective solutions for the 360-degree healthy athlete, as well as for the aging fitness enthusiast. We'll see more sustainable products with more sustainable packaging, which has not yet been focused on.”

Join Luca Bucchini’s session on ‘New trends, new ingredients, and CBD: What isthe latest insports nutrition in the COVID-19 era?‘ during Fi Europe CONNECT 2020 from 23 November – 4 December.

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