What are some of the factors driving the mainstreaming of sports nutrition?
“First, consumers are looking for health benefits. Market insights demonstrate an increasing interest in the benefits of sports nutrition products among fitness enthusiasts interested in improving performance, nutritional intake and recovery from exercise.
It’s not only athletes taking a greater interest in functional foods though. Now many mainstream consumers are looking for a health boost beyond basic nutrition. Consumers wish to stay strong at all ages. Consumers are also seeking nutritious meal alternatives and healthier snacks in convenient formats, not forgetting that taste remains a key driver of this category. Finally, to address naturalness positioning concerns, companies have been working on their reformulation processes to offer clean label products, ideally made from renewable raw materials.”
Where do you see key growth markets emerging, and what type of products are we increasingly seeing on the market?
“Besides protein in sport nutrition, consumers are also looking for ingredients that can be considered as active, and bringing clear functional benefits. This is for instance the case of fibre enrichment as provided by Tereos’ Actilight® prebiotic fibre, which restores gut microbiota after intense effort.
We have also seen an increase in sugar-free and sugar-reduced claims, in which stevia-based solutions are a great enabler. Benefiting from a positive image and considered as a great alternative to sugar, stevia-based solutions can expand the range of consumer options, and tie in with clean and clear label trends.
Growth will also come from category blurring. Sport nutrition is becoming more mainstream, jumping into the healthy snacking trend and offering new formats. Sport powders remain the major format of sport nutrition, but bars come in second and are growing.”
What do manufacturers need to do to stand out from the competition?
“Many products are available within the scope of sport nutrition. There are various products for different types of effort, with different flavours. So yes, manufacturers must differentiate and bring new features.
Differentiation can come from new health positioning and even well-being positionings. Manufacturers can also stand out by addressing major trends like plant-based, clean label or locally-sourced products. A right balance between sensory profile (taste / texture) and performance can be a strong differentiator versus the competition.”
What are some of the barriers to penetrating this market?
“Consumers expect products to meet their expectations in terms of nutrition, health benefits and price. Taste remains key and a good-tasting product will always have the advantage. Bad texture or unpleasant aftertaste due to inappropriate use of low quality High Intensity sweeteners is becoming less acceptable, and alternatives should be promoted.”
Could you explain and provide some examples of how Tereos’ ingredients portfolio can help manufacturers address some of these challenges and tap into this trend?
“Tereos fully understands the need for athletes to optimise their sport performance depending on the type of effort. Our expertise in formulation, combined with our large ingredients portfolio, can address those challenges, and enlarge our customers’ options.
With proteins, carbohydrates are key nutrients in sport nutrition. They provide energy, and glucose is the main fuel for the brain and for muscles during intense physical activity. Preference goes to high glycemic index ingredients such as glucose and maltodextrin. Tereos’ wide sweeteners range goes from full to zero calorie, and includes Maldex 06s, a new starch-based solution which provides roundness and creamy texture, with guaranteed stability over time. It fully supports reformulation options targeting sugars, fat and calorie reduction.
Emerging science shows that fibre intake can be beneficial for athletes, through several mechanisms related to microbiota modulation. Actilight® fructo-oligosaccharide is a prebiotic fibre with a sweet taste, well tolerated and easily incorporated in a wide range of matrixes. And last but not least, talking about taste, fully traceable stevia-based solutions offered by Tereos are fully aligned with the plant-based trend and help define the desired sensory profile.”
Are there examples of successful sports nutrition products on the market that you could share?
“Our experts have developed products that are in line with customer trends, and which offer very good sensory properties. These include protein bars, energy gels and other products that meet sport nutrition expectations. A good example is our great tasting vanilla flavoured protein powder. For this powder shake, we have been able to deliver fibre, high protein and no added sugar claims, leading to an impressive A-Nutri-Score rating!”
What key messages would you like to get across to manufacturers when it comes to formulating sports nutrition products?
“At Tereos we can support you and help you meet consumer demand. Thanks to our skills and portfolio, you can preserve taste, while giving sport nutrition a healthier image with A-Nutri-Score products, based not only on performance but also on health benefits. Sugar reduction, plant-based and prebiotic fibre enrichment definitely match with this trend.”
Finally, how do you see the sports nutrition trend evolving over the next five years or so?
“We can expect development through convenience - more snacking and ready to eat / drink products. Functional ingredients are on the rise, but clean label ones should be particularly successful. And last but not least, sustainable claims like ‘locally sourced’ could make the difference in this changing environment where customers really care more and more about the planet.”