“From arms race to pinpoint precision”: Performance nutraceuticals embrace nootropics and probiotics for targeted supplement demands
24 Feb 2021 --- The category of performance nutraceuticals has undergone a dramatic shift in the last decade. Products traditionally aimed at boosting athletic enhancement have expanded into a broader market segment with consumers seeking help with everyday behavioral and cognitive functioning.
NutritionInsight speaks with experts from Finzelberg, Lonza and Astareal about how and why this field has changed and where it is headed.
The spread of performance nutraceuticals from sports pitches into classrooms, offices and homes makes it an increasingly lucrative space for industry.
At first glance, it’s easy to categorize the entire space with traditional ingredients associated with sports nutrition, such as creatine and whey protein, explains Vaughn DuBow, marketing manager at Lonza.
“But what if a basketball player needs help memorizing their new playbook? Or maybe a competitive CrossFit athlete wants to soothe their anxiety before a big lift? There’s more to performance than just ‘bigger, stronger, faster.’”
Boosting cognitive function, in particular, has been a pivotal focus for manufacturers of performance nutraceuticals and has brought nootropic supplements into the space.
“In today’s world, we’re more connected than ever, and it’s exhausting for our minds. Global nutritional companies are trying to help consumers concentrate and focus,” explains Andrea Schid, senior marketing manager at Finzelberg.
End of the “arms race”
Performance is no longer being defined simply by muscle size and strength, says DuBow.
“Instead, a complete understanding of what performance is and all of the bodily systems involved is starting to be realized.”
This has ended a figurative “arms race” in dietary supplements, which was seen during the 1990s-2000s, where companies competed to see whose products could induce the greatest amount of muscle gain in 30 days, he continues.
“We’re just now beginning to see a significant rise in popularity in unique ingredients, dosage forms and products that support performance through more specialized applications.”
Maryanne Mburu, senior key account manager at AstaReal, notes this broadening of application areas has also given rise to products that provide more general benefits.
“There is far more interest in a solution that benefits several areas at once – for example, energy, performance and recovery. Support for all of these and more can be found in just one astaxanthin-based supplement, for example.”
“Blends might include collagen for joint health, isomaltulose for sustained energy, probiotics for immune support and AstaReal astaxanthin for antioxidant protection.”
One of the key trends emerging from the demand for products that offer benefits to a range of functions is cognitive-enhancing supplements like nootropics, improving performance at both mental and physical tasks.
The changing professional landscape is also lending attention to this space, explains Schid.
“Remote work is often performed at a much higher speed, with limited times in between meetings and video conferences. Simultaneously, consumers have to handle more information and make decisions in less time – all that while the balance between professional and private life has become more difficult for many consumers.”
“We see this as a big influencing factor, driving interest in performance nutraceuticals, as well as driving cognitive performance.”
The market for cognition products is scattered into many sub-markets, in which a few established products control the market for a long time, she outlines.
For instance, Finzelberg’s Concental is a clean label, evidence-based cognition and mental health ingredient.
“It is extremely versatile, water-soluble, vegan, and thus suitable for various product applications, including instant powders, shots, soft chews, capsules, tablets and more – available for convenient and on-the-go delivery formats,” says Schid.
Innova Market Insights highlighted ingredients targeted at mental enhancement and health by ranking “Mood: The Next Occasion” as a top trend for 2021.
A related development driving the growth of cognitive enhancers is the expansion of supplements used by online gamers.
The market is growing “very fast,” says Schid, who says this development could speed up further during times of social distancing.
“Many gamers – be it in the professional spheres or hobby gamers – are very eager to improve their performance. They need pinpoint precision and nerves of steel in order to remain competitive in the fast-paced world of online games.”
Lonza also notes the importance of egaming in the performance nutraceutical market.
“The fastest growing sport in the world is e-gaming, and these new-age athletes will be the first to admit that they’re looking for ways to improve at their craft, with many looking for improved hand-eye coordination, enhancing reaction times, and even supporting their ocular health from being exposed to so much screen time,” says DuBow.
This demand represents “a big opportunity” for manufacturers to develop new nutritional solutions, states Mburu.
Probiotics “the next great adventure”
DuBouw asserts the future is especially bright for performance nutraceuticals due to increasing research and understanding of the human microbiome.
“Emerging science continues to show that our gut is a likely epicenter of performance, influencing countless bodily processes from hormone and neurotransmitter production to natural energy creation,” he says.
As the science progresses, Lonza expects to see performance nutraceuticals be led by strain-specific probiotics capable of influencing performance “on seemingly countless levels.”
“Probiotics are the next great adventure in sports nutrition. For years, the industry has been dominated via similar performance pathways, such as increasing mTOR for improved muscle growth or increasing ATP stores for explosive energy work. While they work, they aren’t a cure-all for performance.”
DuBow predicts that no individual strain of probiotics will come to dominate the entire sports nutrition market but that probiotics as a whole, offered in strain-specific applications, will.
By Louis Gore-Langton
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