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Sports science and personalisation key to sports nutrition going mainstream

Article-Sports science and personalisation key to sports nutrition going mainstream

Now that the active lifestyle and sports performance categories are merging, manufacturers need to discover how to ride the trends consumers engage with in order to resonate more closely with their expectations.

We asked Rick Miller, Associate Director in Specialised Nutrition at Mintel, what he sees as the best strategies in this category and how personalisation and capitalising on the sports science heritage of the category can help producers ensure sports nutrition keeps its ‘edge’ and does not become simply a lifestyle choice.

How has the sport nutrition landscape changed in recent years? What type of products are on the rise?

“The use of sports nutrition products is on the rise globally, with year on year growth in the major markets for the past few years. Across the majority of regional markets, the sports drinks category alone is forecast to grow between 0.7-23% in the next 5 years with much of the growth taking place in SE Asia. However, the sports nutrition category has and remains transformative, transitioning from the niche to mainstream consumer market and we see that in the types of products that are on the rise. Much of the aforementioned growth is from brands with an ‘active lifestyle’ positioning, such as energy and protein bars, snacks and ‘guilt-free’ formulations of products such as biscuits. There is no denying the monumental shift in plant-based offerings in this sector with 14% of sports nutrition global launches in the past 12 months to July 2019 featuring a vegan/no animal claim.”


Do consumers understand the health benefit of these products? What are their expectations?

“When consumers from a variety of regions who have purchased any of these products in the last 3 months are asked specifically about what drove them to purchase, they mention their specific health and performance needs.”

“For instance over 50% of US consumers look for high protein as a desired health benefit and over 45% are looking for products that energise. Their expectations in these products are high; with 36% of UK consumers who use sports nutrition products reporting that a product customised to their own personal needs would appeal to them.”

Do producers adjust their communication to resonate more to the general public? How does this blurring of lines between the product categories affect new product launches?

“Manufacturers and producers are riding the trends consumers engage with to distinguish themselves from the more serious fitness enthusiast or athletes and resonate more closely with the public. One of these trends is to use more ‘natural’ claims. For instance globally the percentage of sports nutrition bar launches with natural claims rose by 18% in the past 10 years. These changes are responsive and fully in line with what consumers’ concerns are when it comes to purchasing sports nutrition products. For example, 75% of French consumers state that sports drinks contain too many artificial ingredients when asked.”

What are some innovative product launches in this category?

“KetoPro Chocolate Supreme flavoured organic bone broth & New Zealand Whey by Prairie Naturals, Canada, brings together a blended protein powder with organic chicken bone broth, whey protein isolate and MCT oil. The product is on trend by referring to its suitability for consumers following a Paleo or Ketogenic Diet.”

“Aloha Organic Chocolate Sea Salt plant-based protein that contains peas and brown rice, coconut and juice. A versatile product with 18g protein per serving and a low sugar content, the unique addition of MCT oil makes it a standout in the category.”

“FITn40+ Sport Natural Strawberry Lemonade Sports Drink by FITN40 is a US performance dietary supplement reported to be optimised and targeted for men and women over 40 to support healthy ageing and cellular longevity. The product contains organic KSM-66 ashwagandha, a popular adaptogen.”


What are your predictions for sport nutrition category over the next few years?

“In my experience as a sports dietitian when I first started practicing over 10 years ago, my sports nutrition product expectations were quite low in terms of quality and taste. Fast forward to today and it’s a different story but with the merging of active lifestyle and sports performance categories it needs to evolve further. Brands need to continue to push the category to become cleaner, more transparent about ingredients and capitalise on the sports science heritage of the category with consumers so it doesn’t lose its ‘edge’ and become wholly lifestyle.”

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

“Personalisation is the driving trend in F&B and it will continue to escalate. The industry will further rely on technologies that aid the consumer in understanding their health needs, such as fundamental biochemical analyses, nutrigenomics and microbiome testing and this will drive innovation within this space. Further emphasis on ultra-sustainable delivery formats for F&B, functional ingredients with enhanced bioavailability and technologies that allow for cleaner sources of protein and multi-sensory experiences will continue over the next few years.”