Performance nutrition market: Experts flag COVID-19 impact and expanding consumer bases
29 Jul 2020 --- Performance nutrition is a rapidly evolving segment and is extending into new consumer bases, according to industry experts. A roundtable of leading players speaks to NutritionInsight about the nutritional demands of both athletes and active consumers. Furthermore, they discuss how the ongoing pandemic is influencing the health and wellness space and driving up the demand for healthful sports nutrition NPD, as part of a holistic approach to prevention.
“There is strong growth in sports-related positionings within mainstream food and beverage NPD. We see the rise of the health conscious consumer seeking physical and mental wellness; this trend is accelerating as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers pay increased attention to prevention and self care and educate themselves online to track nutrition and health,” notes Floris Daamen, Marketing Manager, Performance Nutrition at FrieslandCampina.
“Within sports nutrition, athletes are especially interested in personal nutrition that fits with their training regime, but can also be easily combined with working and social life. Proactive education on the functional benefits of different ingredients would grab the attention of these health conscious consumers,” Daamen adds.
Angus Rowland, Sales Manager, Sports & Active Lifestyle, Europe, at NZMP notes that the industry is seeing increasing diversification and broadening of the ‘Sports Nutrition’ segment. He says the lines begin to blur between the products offered for athletes and the products offered for active consumers wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle.
“This has led to exciting new products being launched that closely emulate traditional foods, but typically with a high protein and low sugar content (breads, high protein drinks, bars, etc). The newest developments have centered around two main areas – new ways to introduce protein fortification into everyday foods and added benefits beyond protein such as gut health, cognition and immunity,” explains Rowland.
“Keen to maximize the benefits from training sessions, people are now looking for supplements that support peak performance during high intensity workouts. This type of exercise puts a great deal of stress on the joints, which may result in damage to cartilage over time. Consumers are typically aware of the importance of maintaining joint health, so they can stay active for longer. As such, joint health solutions like UC-II undenatured type II collagen are increasingly of interest to a broader array of consumer groups – from Millennials right through to Baby Boomers,” highlights Stephane Vouche, Marketing Manager, Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients.
“The most important trend has been the mainstreaming phenomenon. Sports nutrition used to be a niche sector catering for the needs of serious athletes and bodybuilders. Now a wide range of consumers, including those with little interest in sports, purchase products such as protein drinks as snacks or meal replacements,” says Jordan Donohue, Business Development Manager, Sports Nutrition & Health Food, Arla Foods Ingredients.
“They’re quick and easy to consume and because protein delivers satiety they’ve become a popular tool for weight loss and overall wellness,” Donohue adds. That broader customer base means manufacturers have to meet new needs – for example demand for products with a natural, wholesome or organic positioning. Meanwhile, scientific research continues to demonstrate the value of whey proteins, in particular whey protein hydrolysate (WPH), for recovery, endurance and muscle building. “It offers better amino acid composition than other forms of dietary protein, such as soy; it’s more rapidly absorbed; and its benefits have been demonstrated in many studies carried out on athletes,” he says.
Proliferation of sports nutrition trends
Brands in the sports and active nutrition space are now adapting to the changing behaviors prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are catering to an emerging demographic – the ‘workout from home’ consumers, according to Mariko Hill, Product Development Executive at Gencor Pacific Limited.
As gyms and fitness facilities remain closed, consumers are now diverting their needs away from stimulants and vasodilators (i.e. pre-workouts) to more supplements that cater towards stress-relief and general wellness.
“Ingredients that enhance sleep and brain performance are also on the rise as consumers are starting to understand the importance of sleep, as well as the growth of the e-gaming industry. Consumers are also becoming more educated on the importance of protein for muscle health and the benefits certain ingredients have on well-being and immunity. With that in mind, it is vital for brands to differentiate in this crowded marketplace using unique, clinically-researched ingredients, yet provide marketing materials that target relevant need states – i.e. pain, mobility, strength and vitality,” Hill adds.
Moreover, a growing number of active people include sports nutrition and dietary food supplements to their diet in order to either help maintain a healthy lifestyle in favor of prevention. “Protein powder is the leading ingredient of the sports nutrition market, however, the market evolution is giving place to new types of consumers with various motivation and nutritional needs. Furthermore, the extensive scientific work to discover other valuable ingredients has enhanced probiotics popularity, as they behold several demonstrated health benefits for active people,” asserts Lucie Lingrand, Product Manager, Marketing and Communications, Lallemand Health Solutions.
She notes that around 70 percent of consumers interested in sports nutrition are considering adding probiotics to their diet and 30 percent are already looking for probiotics on supplement’s label before purchasing.
The International Society for Sport Nutrition (ISSN) recommends probiotics for their demonstrated modes of action on athletes to optimize their well-being and as probiotics supplements are not part of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list, they are acceptable to consume. In a recent published positive position paper, ISSN acknowledged the potential effects of probiotics to boost natural defenses, maintain gut barrier integrity, improve antioxidant capacity and decrease occasional stress through the brain-gut axis, Lingrand explains.
“The most important development would be the shift from sports nutrition to lifestyle and personalized nutrition. As people are more interested in a healthy lifestyle the boundaries between sports and mainstream nutrition will continue to blur. Next to the core users, such as athletes, the biggest growth of the category I would expect in lifestyle nutrition with a large variation in claimed performance, health and cognitive benefits,” says Astrid Kemper, Business Development Manager, Bouwhuis Enthoven.
Another important, continuing trend would be the “cleaning up the label” trend, Kemper notes. This consists of a reduction of ingredients or the use of easily recognizable ingredients and/or a more simple message on the benefits the product provides.
Two of the biggest global phenomena of the time – the current pandemic and an aging population – are both having an impact on the sector. “One of the effects of coronavirus is likely to be a growth in demand for sports nutrition products with benefits for the immune system. Meanwhile, there’s a growing market for products that can help senior consumers stay active for longer,” notes Donohue.
“Products for immune support will remain very important for the coming years. Next to immune support I expect nutrition products for e-sports/gaming to really start to grow especially with the current increase in screen time for all of us,” Kemper says.
Hill also notes that an emerging category is e-sports, where its growth is likely due to the advancement of technology. This growth could be driven by individuals resorting to online games while in isolation. Therefore, products that target cognitive health, particularly those that reduce reaction time, enhance memory and/or boost mental clarity, will likely see an increase in demand.
“Lastly, with the over-saturation in the Sports Nutrition industry, brands must develop products that can differentiate themselves from the crowded market. They can do this in various ways such as enhancing product efficacy through bioavailability; offering different formats; and developing products that contain clinically-backed ingredients,” Hill continues.
For Lingrand, the dietary food supplements and sports nutrition sector will evolve towards a more scientific sector, with documented products and approved claims. It will adapt the products to the diverse needs, concerns and wishes from the occasional users to the core performers.
“There is a wide range of growing trends in sports nutrition, from keto to personalization. But if we had to pick one trend which will be the next big thing, it would be gut health and the growing understanding of the gut-brain axis. Products containing ingredients that are beneficial for gut and brain health such as probiotics, phospholipids and prebiotics will be in high demand. These types of products will help to meet the growing trend of consumers looking to improve their sleep and reduce stress and anxiety,” affirms Rowland.
“An important new area for sports nutrition is gut health,” echoes Daamen. “In particular, the emerging science around the gut-muscle axis offers promising opportunities for sports enthusiasts and producers. A solution targeting this audience might incorporate other benefits which could enhance their health and overall performance. We see interesting areas emerging such as personalized nutrition, specific health benefits and women’s nutrition.”
By Kristiana Lalou
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