Industry turns to nootropics and energy ingredients to boost sports performance
21 Jul 2021 --- Ingredients like nootropics and energy boosters are shaking up the sports nutrition sector. However, a roundtable of experts from Bioenergy Life Science, Glanbia Nutritionals, Lonza Group and PLT Health Solutions share that the term “sports performance boosters” is difficult to define as it evolves and incorporates different segments as time progresses.
“Increasingly, we see the term ‘active nutrition’ as a replacement for what has been typically known as ‘sports nutrition.’ For years, this meant the body-building and fitness community. Recently, many of us have been using ‘sports/active nutrition,’” says Steve Fink, vice president of Marketing at PLT Health Solutions.
“This shift in terminology indicates a broadening of the market for what we have called sports nutrition.”
“While there is no single definition for sports performance boosters, BLS strongly believes that this term should be reserved exclusively for science-backed ingredients and formulas proven to safely deliver a competitive edge,” Marianne McDonagh, vice president of sales at Bioenergy Life Science, adds.
Innova Market Insight data shows that one of the top health positionings of sports nutrition launches including “recover or recovery” claims was Energy/Alertness, which featured on 17 percent of 2019 launches.
When comparing 2019 and 2018, the market researcher found that the use of energy ingredients in food and beverage launches has increased globally, with a 14 percent year-over-year increase. In 2019, the top category of global product launches tracked with energy ingredients was Sports Nutrition (54 percent).
The shift in consumer behavior in the sports performance industry began with consumers who showed an interest and passion for knowing what’s inside sports performance products and how those ingredients work, McDonagh comments.
“Today, the sports performance market is about more than packaging and unique delivery systems. It’s based on science and effectiveness. Bioenergy Ribose stands up to consumers’ scrutiny because it is known as a well-researched, branded ingredient designed to increase energy and improve sport performance at a cellular level.”
“Benefits and ingredients that were previously not used in sports nutrition are finding their way over. These include cognitive support for enhanced focus and mood; joint health and immune health benefits for faster recovery times; and the ability to improve quality of workouts,” Fink says.
Energy boosters in focus
Energy boosters are a growing category within the sports nutrition industry. Similar to sports nutrition, the definition of energy and what defines a science-backed booster is often confused.
“Energy is more than caloric intake. Through our ongoing primary research, an extensive understanding of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) was developed,” McDonagh continues.
It is the energy currency in cells that facilitates the body’s use of energy. D-Ribose (Bioenergy Ribose) is the backbone of ATP, meaning without D-Ribose, bodies will not have ATP and vice versa
Consumers’ relationship with energy boosters
PLT Health Solutions commissioned a consumer research study on pre-workout energy and buyer preferences in 2018.
The survey included 161 male respondents between the ages of 20 and 40 who frequently take pre-workout supplements.
The survey results revealed a need for longer-lasting energy, with 90 percent of respondents having a preference for multi-phase energy over caffeine. Additionally, the need for clinically supported claims was voiced by 92 percent of participants.
Glanbia Nutritionals echo the need for clinically supported claims.
“Consumers are increasingly reading labels and want less artificial, better-regulated sports nutrition,” explains Tara Bane, EMEA marketing manager for Glanbia Nutritionals.
“Thirty-four percent of UK consumers believe there is not enough regulation within the sports nutrition industry. Additionally, 65 percent of French consumers agree they are more likely to trust a food or drink product if the packaging explains where the ingredients are sourced”, Bane continues.
A shift in consumer behavior
Lonza Group also saw a shift in consumer relationships in the sports and active nutrition sector.
“Beginning in June 2020, we saw that exercise patterns were actually up compared to the prior year, noting that 56 percent of consumers had increased their sports nutrition supplement use within the prior six weeks,” highlights Lindsey Toth, associate director global product management, Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients.
“We’ve seen this growth taper going into 2021, with 34 percent of consumers still increasing sports supplement use, yet we still see that most users who increased their usage remain committed to their new higher-dose routine. More people are looking for sports nutrition supplements, and they’re looking to take them in higher amounts,” Toth continues.
Meanwhile, according to the PLT survey, more than half of the respondents would switch from their current pre-workout that did not have a tailored energy profile to one that did.
The survey found that 92 percent of respondents felt that a product with a personalized energy profile would be worth paying more for.
“As a result, targeted release energy – at a relatively small incremental cost – is one of the most effective things you can add to a sports nutrition product to have a dramatic impact on perceived value and purchase preference,” Fink adds.
Emergence of nootropics
According to Innova Market Insights’ data, nootropics are gaining traction in both the dietary supplement and the broader food and beverage markets, with “nootropic” claims growing at a rate of 62 percent per year on average.
In this space, memory, mental focus, alertness, clarity, performance, stamina, antistress, anxiolytic, calming and soothing properties are among the other significant claims.
Glanbia Nutritionals highlights the key aspects of nootropics and how these are shifting from sports nutrition to a broader nutrition focus.
“While nutrition for physical energy and stamina has long been in demand, the link between nootropics and brain health is becoming more widely accepted. Consumers are more interested in brain health and ingredients that support cognition,” Bane states.
“Nootropics currently exist across all major food and drink sectors, whereas previously, it was only found in specialized supplements like tablets and capsules for a niche market. Now, it’s becoming mainstream with global brands launching products into bars, RTD, gummies and powders that contain cognitive-boosting ingredients.”
PLT Health Solutions also sees a shift in the sports performance booster scene.
According to the company, consumers interested in sports or active nutrition look for cognitive support in their workout products.
“Increasingly, PLT sees the adoption of Zembrin Sceletium tortuosum as part of multi-ingredient formulations where cognitive support is desired to help achieve specific goals,” Fink adds.
The sports nutrition community is using Zembrin in workout products to provide cognitive support leading to enhanced focus, improved mood and better workouts.
By Nicole Kerr
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