Part two: Sports nutrition industry reveals a splintered market with opportunity in emerging economies
09 Apr 2020 --- Part one of NutritionInsight’s coverage of sports nutrition revealed how COVID-19 is spurring rapid personalization, which could provide an extra opportunity for companies to stand in the increasingly crowded market. This second part shines a light on the splintered target market, with regionality emerging as a key consideration. Additionally, ingredient quality is more important than ever before – both in the stalwart of protein, as well as emerging ingredient astaxanthin.
“The biggest challenge comes from the growing diversity of the consumer base. It means manufacturers now have to be able to deliver products that tick every box – real performance benefits, convenience and an enjoyable eating or drinking experience,” says Joe Katterfield, Sales Development Manager for Sports Nutrition and Health Foods at Arla Foods Ingredients.
He continues that a wide range of consumers means a wide range of nutritional needs. For people taking part in sport seriously, one of the biggest needs is for high-quality protein with proven benefits for endurance, recovery and muscle building. “Meanwhile, more mainstream consumers are more likely to be focused on goals such as satiety and weight management. They’re also more likely to expect products that taste good, which means our customers are increasingly looking to us to supply proteins that won’t impair flavor,” he adds.
Another notable sector is the female market, who account for an increasing proportion of the performance nutrition market, according to Floris Daamen, Marketing Manager of Performance Nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients. “However, they lack products tailored specifically to them. Additionally, their priorities are shifting from purely weight management to improving strength (37 percent), increasing lean muscle mass market (32 percent) and boosting cognitive health (41 percent).”
Region is another key factor of consumer differences as the level of sports nutrition saturation differs between areas, explains Niki Kennedy, Senior Strategic Insights & Analytics Manager at Glanbia Nutritionals. “In regions where sports nutrition has been around for decades, new consumers that are more mainstream are expanding the category.”
Now, consumer awareness and engagement with sports nutrition in emerging economies is growing, according to Kennedy. She adds that the expansion of relevant consumers in the foundational sports nutrition product regions is also on the rise.
“In emerging regions like China and India, consumers are discovering the added benefits of protein and other nutrients to support the explosion of active lifestyles. The emergence of a middle class in Asia has also led to an increase in personal exercise as a key aspect of life. This means that the benefits of sports nutrition are starting to be recognized,” she states.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Magnant, Product Manager at Lactalis Ingredients, notes that while the US is the largest market for sports nutrition products, the company is seeing an increase in products being produced and consumed all over the world with major growth in markets like South America and Asia. “This is also leading to innovation in alternatives as well, although protein from milk and whey protein remains the most important for the active and sport athletes due to its higher nutritional qualities,” she adds.
Spotlight on key ingredients
Astaxanthin is an ingredient in sports nutrition that is seeing a rapid increase in popularity, according to Andie Long, Marketing and Sales Manager at AstaReal. She explains that this is not only because of its antioxidant potential but also because it offers clinically validated benefits that consumers can feel working in their bodies. “Muscles are subject to severe inflammation during and after physical activity. Natural astaxanthin can counteract these harmful processes and thus prevent injuries,” she explains.
The ingredient is also applicable to the rapidly growing e-sports category. “These consumers are looking for products that support cognitive function, enhance focus and improve vision. Natural astaxanthin is also a perfect fit for this emerging area as it is clinically proven to alleviate fatigue and contributes to better concentration, vision and brain health,” she explains.
However, Elsa Trotier, Product Manager of Nutrition at Ingredia, states that “protein is still king in the sports nutrition area.” She explains that milk contains two types of proteins that are applicable for different training regimes. Whey proteins are quickly digested and are totally absorbed in about three hours, so are recommended for resistance sport. Meanwhile, the assimilation of micellar casein is more progressive and will take up to seven hours, meaning they are more recommended for endurance.
Protein is also spotlighted by Daamen of FrieslandCampina, who states that they are part of the foundation of performance nutrition and available in all types and sizes. “Shelves are growing and it is not always easy to navigate for mainstream consumers. Brand owners are searching for differentiation by adding additional benefits to their products.”
For Mathilde Guerville, Nutrition at Lactalis Group, the quality of protein is becoming more important than quantity. “Consumers have to be careful because not all proteins are as rich in leucine as whey protein is. We have noticed most plant-based proteins fall into this category. Having the right quantity of high-quality protein also avoids the extra amino acids that will not be used by the body.”
Quality is also a concern within astaxanthin. “As the market is growing, we also see the appearance of some low-quality products. Knowledge of the ways in which ingredients can be adulterated and the tools for uncovering these have never been more successful than they are today. Consistent testing will track and prove that raw ingredients and finished goods contain what they should. With high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), for instance, it is possible to analyze how much astaxanthin a product contains,” explains Long.
Anticipating the next major trends
Looking to the future, Katterfield predicts that the sports nutrition sector will continue to evolve to meet the needs of a wide range of consumers. “It will be increasingly important for manufacturers to respond to mainstream trends such as demand for low-sugar products and natural, clean label ingredients. Something else to look out for is the emergence of ‘hybrid’ sports nutrition products containing both plant and animal proteins.”
Meanwhile, Lucie Lingrand, Product Manager in Marketing and Communications at Lallemand Health Solutions, states that the sector will evolve toward a more scientific sector, with documented products and approved claims. “It will adapt the products to the diverse needs, concerns and wishes from the various segments. Active people are more educated about how to maintain good health and aim to reach global wellbeing.”
Daamen says that in addition to women’s nutrition, emerging areas include personalized nutrition and having specific health benefits. “These areas will likely play a key role in the future growth and innovation within this sector.”
Finally, Long notes that traditional consumers want more from the sports nutrition markets. “Thus, formulations will become more sophisticated. More and more companies will offer combination products that are pushing the market into new territory, adding value, and creating new categories and points of differentiation,” she concludes.
Read more about the mainstreaming of sports nutrition, as well as how COVID-19 is driving personalization, in part one of NutritionInsight’s coverage.
By Katherine Durrell
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