The sports nutrition market in review

Published: 20-Jul-2023

Kate Kehoe, Marketing Executive at FMCG Gurus, outlines the company’s recent report on “Active Nutrition vs Sports Nutrition” and presents some key take-home messages

The sports nutrition market initially focused on the development of nutritional products that were specifically designed for fitness enthusiasts and athletes. They were designed to enhance and optimise performance, recovery and overall health and wellness. 

However, the sports nutrition market has seen significant growth in recent years, which is a direct result of increased consumer awareness and more attention being paid to general well-being.

This has led to a rise in more health and fitness conscious consumers and has seen sports nutrition products — such as protein powders, sports drinks, energy bars and dietary supplements — move beyond being a niche towards a market of mass appeal.

Proactive consumers
Beyond need a boost of strength and/or endurance when being physically active, consumers turn to food and drink for a variety of reasons. Now, many everyday users are looking for food and drink products that offer convenient nutrition to aid their long-term health.

FMCG Gurus’ consumer insights reveal that 60% of global consumers have become more conscious about their health in the last 2 years. As a result, products with multiple health claims will appeal to consumers as this will enhance the value of the product and offer maximum efficacy.

During the last few years, consumers have re-evaluated their health and wellness. This has led to a large proportion of people adopting more proactive approaches to addressing their health in the long-term.

The sports nutrition market in review

For instance, FMCG Gurus market research shows that 23% of health-conscious consumers state that this is because they were not suffering from any symptoms but just wanted to take a more proactive approach to their wellness. With this shift towards holistic health, these consumers value better-for-you products that are health-boosting and multifunctional by addressing various areas of application.

The importance of protein
Protein is a vital nutrient that plays a key role in muscle growth, repair and overall health. In the sports nutrition market, protein is incorporated into various food and drink categories to cater to the increasing demand for protein-rich products. Of those who have changed their diet in the last 2 years, 58% of global consumers increased their intake of protein.

A large proportion of consumers in the mainstream market have shown interest in protein consumption to aid an active lifestyle, weight management and overall wellness. Importantly, because of diverse needs and preferences, protein products are available in various food and drink formats and categories.

FMCG Gurus insights reveal that 48% of global consumers have purchased high protein cookies and 52% have purchased milk protein drinks in the last 6 months.

This demonstrates that although the sports nutrition industry has reached more of a mainstream audience of health-conscious, proactive users, brands should continue to focus on product innovation and the formulation of protein-enriched foods, including yoghurts, cereals, snacks and protein-infused beverages.

Highlight the sustainability credentials of protein sources 
The state of the environment continues to be a key concern for consumers; they’re aware of the environmental impact of the food production industry and their own dietary, shopping and overall lifestyle habits. Moreover, consumers are concerned about the impact of environmental damage on their health and understand that wellness and sustainability are interlinked. 

The sports nutrition market must not underestimate the appeal of plant-based protein sources. FMCG Gurus market research highlight that of those who have changed their diet in the last 2 years, 46% of global consumers increased their intake of plant protein.

This is the case for both those who follow strict plant-based diets and those who don’t. Although these proteins are rich in essential amino acids and can provide similar benefits to animal-based proteins in terms of muscle recovery, repair and growth, the sports nutrition market should focus on innovating plant-based protein products through taste, texture and functionality. 

Back-to-basics approach 
Many consumers have embraced the concept of positive nutrition and are looking to increase their intake of functional and natural ingredients to gain a health-boost beyond basic nutrition.

To achieve this, brands should adopt a back-to-basics approach to nutrition — using natural ingredients and streamlined ingredient lists.

For instance, 62% of global consumers deem a snack to be healthier if it contains natural ingredients. Sports nutrition products should not only be better-for-you but also free-from dietary evils that will have an adverse effect on the health and wellness of the consumer. 

The sports nutrition market focuses on overall wellness, as opposed to solely focusing on athletic performance. Products may contain additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support immune function and recovery. This holistic approach caters to the broader lifestyle concerns of consumers who prioritise both exercise and general well-being. 

Use scientific evidence to validate health claims 
Transparency and sustainability are vital aspects of the natural approach in the sports nutrition market. This is because many consumers are concerned and sceptical about exaggerated and misleading health claims owing to health-washing scandals.

As a result, consumers are looking for evidence to offer reassurance that the product will do as it says on the label. FMCG Gurus’ findings highlight that 69% of global consumers find scientific claims important when choosing sports nutrition products. Therefore, to combat scepticism, brands must use clinically proven, scientific evidence to support health claims in sports nutrition products.

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