Power for the people: Sports nutrition diversifies as active lifestyles proliferate across generations
16 Mar 2023 --- Sports nutrition has transitioned beyond the realms of professional athletes to the everyday consumer, spurred by the overriding industry themes of health consciousness and more active lifestyles. Consumers are exercising more regularly across demographics and demanding effective nutritional supplements to fuel their ambitions.
NutritionInsight sits down with leading ingredient suppliers FrieslandCampina Ingredients, Rousselot, Lonza, Gencor and Pharmako Biotechnologies to explore the latest in sports nutrition consumer trends, ingredient solutions and delivery formats. We also consider how sports nutrition might evolve over the next five years.
“The demand boom for sports products is heavily influenced by several intersecting health and nutrition trends, including today’s consumers being increasingly health conscious. This trend has been influenced by the pandemic, but indications suggest that it won’t be short-lived,” says Vicky Davies, global marketing director for Performance, Active & Medical Nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients.
“Consumers are reevaluating what it means to be healthy in ways that are radically different from previous generations. They’re focused on total body-and-mind wellness rather than individual issues like weight loss or immunity. Exercise, with its physical and mental benefits, is a significant part of this.”
Moreover, what Davies refers to as the “relatively vague” term of “healthy aging” is making way for “active aging,” with cross-generational demand for sports nutrition proliferating.
Florencia Moreno Torres, Health & Nutrition global business development manager at Rousselot, adds: “As older people adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle to manage or even prevent age-related issues and maintain a good quality of life, the sports nutrition market is also benefiting from a growing curiosity toward age-specific products.”
“Another market driver is consumers’ rising acceptance of protein supplements, which used to be solely linked to muscle building. While there’s still much to learn about proteins, this is a great opportunity for the industry to raise awareness of the different characteristics and functionalities of various proteins like collagen related to joint and bone health support.”
Sports nutrition for the masses
Nutrition companies recognize that capitalizing on the expanding market for sports nutrition requires formulated products that appeal to everyday consumers by way of taste, texture and convenience.
“Big bags of chalky protein were okay for professional athletes prioritizing their nutrition and training, but in 2023 they don’t always cut it. To appeal to the active consumer demographic, products need to taste and look good and be easy to incorporate into busy lifestyles,” continues Davies.
“Linked to taste and texture is the increasing consumer demand for variety in flavors, formats and protein sources. This appetite for a range of protein sources is also driving demand for more plant-based protein options.”
In the plant-based space, FrieslandCampina Ingredients’ Plantaris range is designed using processes that reduce the “earthy” notes often present in plant-based protein products.
The company’s high-quality protein ingredients also include its Nutri Whey Isolate Clear, which can be used to create on-trend protein waters and gels, while its Excellion Textpro is designed for use in high protein bars for improved texture.
Meanwhile, Rousselot harnesses long-standing partnerships with organizations like Olympic Training Centre Papendal in the Netherlands to explore the effects of collagen supplementation on sports performance and recovery times.
“Leading figures have shared their experiences on how our collagen peptide brand Peptan has helped them perform better. Thanks to these insights, we’re able to look beyond professional sport and work closely with supplement brands to explore how Peptan can benefit casual sportspeople and lifestyle athletes,” says Moreno Torres.
“After all, today’s discerning and well-informed consumers want sophisticated science-backed solutions, which means supplement manufacturers need an experienced partner to expand their portfolio and deliver proven sports nutrition products for everyday consumers.”
Rousselot also targets joint health through its Colartix solution, a unique cartilage collagen matrix made of naturally occurring collagen peptides and glycosaminoglycans. A recent consumer study found that even at a daily dose of 1 g per day, Colartix demonstrated a steady decrease in joint discomfort across age, gender and activity types.
Sports nutrition for the everyday consumer must be affordable to be effective. This requirement has been reinforced by the current cost-of-living crisis, which is driven by geopolitical and economic uncertainties like Brexit and the Russia-Ukraine war.
“Since the cost-of-living crisis is affecting individuals of lower- to mid-income brackets, the industry is looking to adjust product dosages and serving sizes for consumers to continue purchasing sports nutrition products,” notes Mariko Hill, global innovations manager at Gencor.
“For that reason, delivery technologies are a huge advantage for brands as the use of these – such as LipiSperse or AquaCelle technology – enables ingredients to have superior bioavailability and brands to use lower dosages.”
Gencor’s Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) ingredient for pain relief and anti-inflammation is often used in sports nutrition products to support joint health, muscle recovery and sleep. However, PEA is lipophilic, meaning it has absorption challenges. For that reason, the company has developed Levagen+ – a bioavailable form of PEA utilizing LipiSperse technology to increase the ingredient’s bioavailability and functionality.
Eric Meppem, commercial director at Pharmako Biotechnologies (Gencor’s sister company), summarizes: “Brand companies can continue to appeal to sports nutrition consumers by offering novel formats, smaller doses and smaller pack sizes. Products that have a faster onset of action due to improved bioavailability lead to more repeat sales and consumer recommendations.
Pharmako’s LipiSperse dispersion technology improves the bioavailability and functionality of important lipophilic ingredients, enabling greater efficacy, lower doses and faster onset of action.
What the future holds
As one of the most exciting and fast-moving markets in nutraceuticals, nutrition companies expect sports nutrition to diversify rapidly over the next five years. Brands are targeting personalized nutrition, multifunctional solutions and scientifically-backed claims to stand out in an increasingly competitive market.
“Sports nutrition is showing strong growth potential, with many consumers – especially millennials and Gen Z – preferring brands that personalize their product offering,” notes Moreno Torres at Rousselot.
“Shoppers want proven benefits personalized to their health needs, along with clean and clear labels. In the next few years, sports nutrition manufacturers who can offer clearly defined supply chains, proven claims and recognizable ingredients will be best positioned to address the demands of the conscious, active consumer.”
Sports nutrition’s diversification will be particularly evident within protein products and multifunctional solutions.
“We expect plant-based protein’s market share to grow as brands develop new products to meet demand from flexitarian consumers. And new technologies like precision fermentation will also open up new avenues for protein innovation,” says Davies at FrieslandCampina Ingredients.
“However, dairy will continue to lead the market for the foreseeable future, given its long-standing history as a healthy source of protein. Looking ahead, sports nutrition will encompass the whole protein spectrum to provide options that meet different consumer needs.”
On the multifunctional solutions front, brands can capitalize on growing consumer interest in holistic health by formulating products with multiple complementary ingredients that support wellness beyond conventional sports health benefits.
“Brands can use ingredients like prebiotics to tap into the gut microbiome and deliver multiple health benefits at once – like our Biotis GOS ingredient. These benefits can include digestive health and mental well-being, but science is also substantiating that a healthy gut can also support muscle strength,” elaborates Davies.
Esports in a capsule
Furthermore, Lonza has identified the esports market as a promising offshoot of traditional active nutrition. The company showcased its esports solutions at SupplySide West in Las Vegas, US, last year.
“Just like traditional sports, esports athletes and gamers want to perform at their best, and are looking for products that can support their mental and physical performance,” says Emily Navarro, global marketing manager at Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients.
The company offers a range of science-backed ingredients designed to support sports performance, including its TWK10 sports probiotic for gut health, Carnipure L-carnitine for energy and fitness and UC-II undenatured type-II collagen for joint mobility and flexibility.
“Some ingredients have specific delivery requirements. For example, probiotics are acid-sensitive and need protection as they pass through the stomach,” explains Navarro.
“Lonza’s Capsugel DRcaps design-release capsules increase the survival of probiotics as they pass through the acidic conditions of the stomach, supporting maximum absorption in the intestine while also optimizing shelf life.”
Meanwhile, ready-to-drink beverages, easy-to-use powder sachets, high-protein snack bars and sports gels remain trending delivery formats within sports nutrition.
By Joshua Poole
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