According to a report from Innova Market Insights, 41% of sports nutrition shoppers still consider flavour to be an important factor when choosing food and drink, although it falls into third place behind health aspects and cost.
Millennials are reportedly the most adventurous consumer group when it comes to flavour, and also the most likely to include sports nutrition products in a typical grocery basket. This has driven the move to modern flavours in preference to more traditional tastes, Innova says.
As sports nutrition has moved increasingly into the mainstream, flavour blends have gained ground, with greater attention to more complementary tastes. Certain flavours can enhance energising profiles, like coffee for example. Citrus and tropical fruit also have positive energy connotations, while in broader terms, spiciness/sharpness was seen as particularly energising, ahead of sweet flavours.
At the same time, traditional flavours are facing competition from fruit, nut and novelty tastes. Fruit and nuts offer a healthy image, Innova says, but can also add indulgence, as well as fulfilling the rising demand for more natural, vegan and plant-based products.
Hybridisation is already a top trend and the influence on flavour use in sports nutrition is rising as the category moves further into the mainstream and we start to see brand crossovers. Trust and familiarity gained using flavours from other recognised brands makes it likely that further brand extension and co-branding will be used.
There are signs mainstream firms are ready to explore opportunities in this area, the research suggests, not only taking direct steps into sports nutrition themselves, but also opting for licensing deals for the use of their flavours and brands by existing sports nutrition specialists.
In 2020, immune health claims boosted their penetration in sports nutrition launches from 7% to almost 12%, driving the use of immune healthy flavours and ingredients. Citrus fruits will continue to lead, with high consumer recognition of their vitamin content and immune benefits, while antioxidant-rich berries and green tea and antibacterial honey and ginger are also likely to perform well.
Meanwhile, higher levels of comfort eating since the pandemic is driving nostalgia and increased indulgence in flavour choices, which will push more familiar flavours from sweet treats categories into the sports nutrition area.