Redefining performance nutraceutical demographics: Sector ripe for growth and future innovation
29 Jan 2020 --- While performance nutraceuticals can address a wide range of needs, the mainstreaming of sports nutrition has created an especially lucrative market for industry, which is now diversifying its product portfolios to appeal to everyone from “weekend warriors” to serious athletes. However, some groups, such as seniors and women, still experience a lack of performance nutraceuticals targeting their sporting needs, highlighting room for further growth. Industry players also tell NutritionInsight how transformed consumer groups are redefining the performance nutraceuticals space and what potential this fluctuation bears for the future.
The most important trend in the sports nutrition space is the diversification of the customer base, highlights Don Cox, R&D Director, ProActive Health at Kerry. “Today’s sports nutrition consumer can now be anyone from a professional athlete to a casual gym goer buying an isotonic beverage after a brief work-out. This has driven a complete transformation of the predominant use case for performance nutrition.”
While the categories of recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts flourish, industry is taking note of the large increase of female athletes, both in sports and active nutrition. However, Cox highlights that more needs to be done to meet the sports nutrition needs of women, who are generally not the target of sports nutrition products.
“Similarly underserved in the performance nutrition category are elderly people, despite their increase in numbers in the sports sector,” he continues. Although older consumers are an increasingly important group for nutrition markets generally, he addresses the fact that sport nutrition product launches in western Europe remain wanting, indicating an urgent need for innovation.
Some products also may not reach its target consumers due to varying understanding of the role of certain nutraceuticals. There is a difference in perception and education of ingredients role across continents, Mariko Hill, Product Development Executive at Gencor, highlights. “Curcumin in Western culture is known as a potent anti-inflammatory for general wellness and recovery, reducing delayed onset muscle soreness. On the other hand, in Asia, it is known as a potent antioxidant for beauty and skin health.”
Even within Asia, there lie differences in consumer perception, where curcumin is known as an “anti-hangover” ingredient for liver health in Japan. Therefore, brands need to be savvy with their product positioning in order to target the right demographic, she further flags.
Health boosts on and off the field
Performance nutraceuticals can improve strength and endurance, provide energy, help to build lean muscle, accelerate recovery and burn excess fat, says Meilissa Hosen, Product Strategy Manager, Glanbia. Within the sports nutrition category, performance nutraceuticals fall under the dietary supplements category, consisting of vitamins, minerals, food additives and functional foods.
“Nutraceuticals offer extra nutritional benefits that can contribute to overall well-being. They also help prevent malignant processes caused by aging or physiological imbalances,” explains Dr. Benny Antony, Joint Managing Director of Arjuna Natural.
Athletes seek ways to boost their performance outside of their physical actions on competition day. Aurore Chemineau, Senior Manager Product Marketing, Ingredia Dairy Experts, emphasizes that well-being before and after physical activity is crucial for top performance.
“Athletes may feel anxious or have trouble sleeping before a sporting event. The stress before a competition is a ‘good’ stress. It is very useful to perform well and to find the energy required to succeed. However, the symptoms of the tension must be managed to avoid struggle to recover after training,” she explains.
Chemineau differentiates between two key elements within the performance nutraceutical space. On the one hand, sports nutrition is the use of nutrition to improve athletic performance. Alongside a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, performance nutraceuticals can supply active people with a range of health benefits.
On the other hand, active nutrition primarily aims to keep users fit and active, she continues. Not all athletes physically perform or compete on a regular basis. Some sports consumers want additional bodily health boosters such as those that target heart, joint, cognitive and immune health support, adds Hill at Gencor.
Proteins have been established as the stalwart of sport nutrition in the US or Europe and is now advancing to Asia and the Middle East, with an increased development of fitness centers and sport shops, Chemineau states.
“More and more athletes are aware that their good general health contributes to increase their performance as well. Proteins and its derivatives, such as amino acids, are considered to be the top ingredient to increase muscle mass and thus athletic and sport performance,” she underscores.
Ashwagandha and mushrooms are two of the more popular ingredients in this space, Cox notes. Arjuna launched what was touted as the “highest potency ashwagandha extract on the market,” last August together with NutriScience.
In the omega 3 space, fish oil is another popular supplementation. Hill states 1 g of high-grade fish oil helps contribute to general wellness, while 3 or more g target cardiovascular health specifically, a particular asset for elderly athletes.
What’s next for performance nutraceuticals?
Maintaining its current momentum, the performance nutraceuticals space is set to continue expanding its base outside of hard-core gym users and athletes to include mainstream, health-conscious consumers. “Plant proteins, natural and clean label will also continue to be of importance, as well as sports nutrition products with added health benefits beyond performance such as immunity, bone and digestive health,” says Hosen.
Chemineau of Ingredia agrees that the sports nutrition industry is bound to take a more holistic approach to performance products. “That means the whole health will contribute to performance. That’s why more and more new products will combine well-known ingredients for performance and added bioactive ingredients that will meet new health needs, such as energy or mobility support.”
While Cox forecasts technology and personalized nutrition are bound to play a significant role, Arjuna’s Dr. Antony emphasizes that a shift in company focus on R&D should yield more natural and healthy food products.
Hill also predicts different formats and applications for performance nutraceuticals will have huge potential in the nutrition industry. “In any case, the performance nutraceutical space is ripe for growth and innovation in the years to come,” she concludes.
By Anni Schleicher
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.