The sports nutrition market has shifted in significant ways over the past few years but there are still untapped opportunities, says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. Williams will be speaking at the Sports & Nutrition Summit, organized by Food Valley NL, on October 11th 2018. 

The European market for sports nutrition products is on the rise as ordinary consumers have become increasingly health conscious, and have begun to incorporate sports nutrition products into their everyday diets. As many as one in five consumers in Spain, Italy, the UK and Germany say they buy protein drinks on a typical grocery trip, for example, according to Innova data.

This move toward the mainstream has created overlap between sports nutrition trends and general food trends, boosting demand for natural ingredients and free-from products in the sports sector.

“One change we do see occurring is that consumers are demanding more natural products and ones free from artificial flavours or colours,” said Williams.

And manufacturers are responding. In 2016, the number of sports nutrition products with a “natural” positioning in the EU had doubled compared to 2010.

“In addition to products with more natural ingredients, we are also seeing sports drinks incorporating tree waters, like birch and maple water, and the progressive elimination of ingredients that consumers perceive to be unnatural,” she said.

Free from is another important trend in sports – as well as in mainstream foods and drinks – and a third of products tracked in Europe in 2016-2017 carried this claim.

“As sports moves more mainstream, the products will as well, and free from is a big platform, especially for millennial consumers,” Williams said. “We see more and more products that are positioned as lactose and gluten free for example.”

Millennial opportunities
The younger, millennial market drives many of the latest market trends in the sports sector, in nutrition and beyond. According to research from Global Web Index, nearly one in five (76%) millennials exercises at least once a week. While there are plenty of sports nutrition products targeted at different types of athletes at different stages in their training and recovery, Williams highlights “hybrid products”, which emphasise protein content and are sold in mainstream supermarkets.

“One example is Smart Recovery Drink, launched in The Netherlands,” she said. “It has no caffeine or added sugar, and is promoted as a “healthy drink after sport or a good night out.” This is squarely aimed at the millennial audience.”

Digestive health claims
At the other end of the age spectrum, an increasing number of older consumers are also taking their health and exercise more seriously than ever before.

“As seniors become a more important demographic for sports nutrition, there is an opportunity for digestive health as a secondary platform,” Williams said, adding that digestive health claims are becoming more prevalent in sports nutrition. Over the past year alone, the number of products with a digestive or gut health claim has doubled.

“We are seeing “easy to digest” claims, linked to protein, but we are also seeing more ingredients like probiotics, fibre and some botanicals like mint and ginger also being incorporated into products,” she said.

Personalised nutrition
While marketers have traditionally focused on market segments, like particular demographics or type of exercise, the trend toward more personalised nutrition products has potential to shake up the sports sector.

“When it comes to sports, where there is more emphasis on the benefit and the result, consumers will seek out products that work for them,” Williams said. “The sports nutrition consumer is also the one who is tracking their activity and taking a bigger interest in the results of their diet and lifestyle; this is where we will most likely see true personalised nutrition happen first.”

She envisages a time in the near future when it will be possible to get an instant check-up that suggests the best ways to improve health through changes to diet and exercise.

“When this happens and I can go back in six months and check the results, we will have moved much closer to a true personalised nutrition lifestyle.”

During the Food Valley Summit Sports & Nutrition on October 11th in The Netherlands, Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights will give you the latest Sports & Nutrition market insights. More information & registeration.