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What’s next for the sports nutrition market? [Interview]

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Two core consumer groups are driving the growth of the sports nutrition market –active nutrition consumers and performance nutrition consumers. We caught up with Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insight, FMCG Gurus, to discover who these consumers are and how they differ, as well as what are their motivations and need states are when selecting sports nutrition products.
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How do you characterise the difference between active nutrition and performance nutrition consumers?

“Active Nutrition consumers are people who are taking a proactive and long-term approach to health and engage in some forms of physical activity on a weekly basis. However, they are not active gym goers who engage in strenuous exercise daily and do not engage in activities such as running marathons. Instead, these consumers are seeking out sports nutrition products for a quick and convenient nutritional boost as opposed to helping facilitate workout routines. In comparison, performance nutrition consumers are those who engage in strenuous workouts either in the gym or endurance events such as running. These consumers turn to products to help maximize physical performance and reduce the risk of injuries.”

What are some main similarities and differences between these consumers in terms of the type of products they purchase?

“Active Nutrition consumers will tend to be claim-led when purchasing sports nutrition products. They are more likely to turn to products for general health and wellness claims, wanting reassurance about products being high in protein and low in sugar. However, these consumers will not be over-attentive to the quality, volume, or source of protein. Instead, general health claims are sufficient and the taste and texture of products are a greater issue as they want products that they deem to be hassle-free. Whilst taste and texture is also of high importance to Performance Nutrition consumers, they will be more attentive to issues such as source, volume, and quality of protein in products as they seek out products that help facilitate workout routines.”

What are some of the changes in consumer behaviours you’ve observed within these two groups?

“In terms of both sets of consumers, there is a growing level of appeal towards plant-based protein products. When stating this, it is important to offer context and the reality is that whey protein products continue to be very popular options amongst consumers. However, the reason for the appeal of plant-based products is because irrespective of type of consumer, the number of people following plant-based diets is increasing. Moreover, consumers want products that they associate with being free-from ingredients deemed detrimental to health and claims around products being suitable for vegans gives products something of a clean label and purity positioning.”

Have there been many shifts in consumer behaviour due to Covid-19?

“In the short term, the sports nutrition market will have been impacted by the closure of gyms, lockdown restricting the extent that consumers can exercise and recessionary concerns resulting in consumers looking to reduce spend, especially if they were turning to sports nutrition snacks for general snacking purposes. However, any hits have been short term and the market is recovering as consumers take a more proactive approach to wellbeing and look to boost their physical health. Indeed, FMCG Gurus believes that as a result of COVID-19, there will be an increase in Active Nutrition consumers who are currently dissatisfied with their diets and lifestyles and want to make changes to minimize their vulnerability to disease and illness.”

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How is the market for active and performance nutrition changing?

“One key area in which the sports nutrition market will evolve for both types of consumers over the next couple of years, is the issue of cognitive health and mental wellbeing. Across the globe, a high proportion of consumers are not satisfied with their mental wellbeing, with issues such as stress and anxiety being common. This is something that will only continue to intensify in 2020 and beyond because of high levels of uncertainty brought about by COVID-19. Active Nutrition consumers are recognizing that issues such as fatigue and stress can impact on their health beyond influencing mood and can directly impact the immune system. Meanwhile Performance Nutrition consumers recognize that cognitive health and focus and concentration has a direct impact on performance levels when working out. For both sets of consumers, there will be increased focus on sports nutrition products that offer cognitive benefits over the next couple of years.”

Is the sport nutrition market opening to new groups of consumers like the seniors, wanting to remain active longer?

“Seniors remain a massive market for the sports nutrition market – and a demographic that continues to be relatively untapped by the industry. One of the reasons for this is that the packaging design and positioning of sports nutrition products are often targeted at younger adults. However, across the globe, the proportion of senior consumers continues to rise. Moreover, consumers are adopting the notion of healthy ageing at a time when more emphasis is placed on older consumers being more vulnerable to disease and illness. At the same time, issues such as obesity tend to be more common amongst seniors whilst so does insufficient intake of protein. As such, there is considerable opportunity to grow the sports nutrition market over the next five years by targeting seniors.”

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

“The Performance Nutrition market will continue to remain something of a niche and specialist market, with very few of the population classifying as genuine Performance Nutrition consumers. However, the Active Nutrition market is one that will continue to grow. This is because of factors such as changing meal-time habits, time-scarcity and stress having a major impact on consumers’ health and at the same time, these consumers taking a more proactive approach to wellbeing. As such, these consumers will make greater attempts to engage in physical activity but more noticeably, will look to make changes to their dietary habits such as substituting traditional snacking options for high protein/low sugar alternatives. If these products are satisfactory from a sensory perspective and consumers like the taste and texture of products, they will only continue to become more mainstream.”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

“Over the next 3-5 years, clean and green will be the biggest trend within the general food and drink market. The popularity of plant-based products will continue to rise, as will healthier and environmentally-friendly products. Consumers will actively seek out products that they associate with containing real and authentic ingredients and are free from chemicals that are detrimental to themselves and the planet. In addition, consumers will want fewer ingredients in products. This is because consumers will want maximum control over their nutritional intake and want products that they believe to be good for them and good for the earth.”

Don’t miss Mike Hughes’ presentation ‘What’s next for the sports nutrition market?’ during Fi Europe CONNECT 2020, from 23 November – 4 December.

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