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Highlights from Vitafoods Europe 2024, part two

Article-Highlights from Vitafoods Europe 2024, part two

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Women’s health is in the sports nutrition spotlight, while wearable devices are being embraced by ‘highly engaged’ consumers. We asked market experts and researchers at Vitafoods Europe 2024 about the top trends shaping the nutraceutical industry today.

Game on for female sports nutrition

Asked to point out the biggest trend within the sports nutrition category, Brandon Casteel, vice-president of partnerships at US retail research company SPINS, said: “In my opinion, it’s females.”

He added: “This has been a male-dominated category for quite a period of time. If you think back, protein powders have been around for decades, but they were really in correlation with bodybuilding and weight training.

“Fast-forward to today, and you see a proliferation of videos on platforms like TikTok by women about taking creatine as a supplement and talking about its benefits and what it is providing them physiologically in their active nutrition journey.” 

SPINS' datasets allow it to look at the growth of products marketed to specific genders within the active nutrition category. It found that only 3% of US B2C products are overtly marketed to women – but this small number of products is seeing double-digit growth from a year-on-year sales perspective. 

"One big prediction that we see for this year is a rise of these types of products,” Casteel said.

Metabolic health is ‘exploding’

For Rick Miller, associate director for specialised nutrition at Mintel, metabolic health is “exploding around the world”, to the extent that some have likened it to “a second pandemic”.  

“Metabolic health is related to something called insulin resistance,” he said. “It's a cluster of different conditions associated around metabolic dysfunction at a cellular level and so much of the innovation in the food and drink space is related to reducing blood glucose levels and reducing insulin levels as a result of that.”

Such innovations often relate to weight management, with many brands trying develop solutions related to satiety, appetite control, and portion control to ensure that consumers who are struggling with metabolic dysfunction can lose weight.

However, there are other options for new product development. Simply reducing carbohydrates and sugars in products, adding fibres that can modulate blood glucose levels, and even using certain trace elements – such as chromium – can help, according to Miller.

In terms of the categories that are seeing the most product launches with this positioning, Miller highlighted functional food and drink products, notably snacks and bars, bread, and nutritional beverages.  

Wearable tech appeals to a niche but ‘very engaged’ demographic

Driven in part by the rising interest in metabolic health, the use of smart devices and wearable tech is also growing, with products spanning continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) for blood sugar levels, smart watches that track physical activity, and the Oura ring, which monitors sleep. How does Mintel’s Miller see this?

This is a really fascinating area because lots of people are now wearing these devices [and] our consumer data does reveal some insights,” he said.

“About one-fifth of consumers in Germany own a smart watch and about 40% of those consumers use it specifically for health metrics data. That's really important. So, this is a niche audience, but they are very, very engaged and they are buying it for that specific reason.”

Given this demographic’s attention to detail, Miller advised brands to be mindful that the space is still quite small, while being aware that these consumers are “really engaged”.

“They want to understand this data in lots of detail,” he said. “So, it can't be a superficial offering; it needs to be quite deep and very specific to that consumer group.”

Margaux Laine, consultant analyst at Euromonitor, also highlighted the opportunities that exist around personalised nutrition solutions, from smart devices to microbiome analysis and genetic tests.

“These tests are also an opportunity for food manufacturers to actually partner with these labs or food tech [companies] and get data and more ideas for what to develop,” she said.

However, Laine said there are two challenges with personalised nutrition tests that companies will have to overcome.

“The first one is the cost-of-living crisis because these tests are expensive, so consumers need to be ready to get into that field,” she explained. “The second one is sharing data. Are consumers OK to share data about their internal physical and mental health with platforms that they don't know very much?”

The lure of longevity: Healthy ageing is attracting a young crowd

Nicole Jansen, team manager for insights and innovation at Innova Market Insights, called out the growing interest in healthy ageing, particularly among younger consumers.

"If you walk around [Vitafoods Europe], you will really see healthy ageing almost on every other booth,” she said. “Companies are really busy with this topic. I think that there has been a kind of shift: in the past, we have seen healthy ageing related to joint health and heart health – so more towards senior people in our society – but now we can see the shift to younger consumers.”

Jansen attributed this evolution in part to the influence of social media platforms where physical appearance is important to users.

“A lot of it is also about having nice skin or not having [...] wrinkles. We can see that, even at an early age, they are already busy with these topics whereas before [young people] did not think about that,” she said.

Another interesting development is how different sectors are “merging together”.

Jansen said: “You see companies in the beauty space and food space try to launch products together or try to refer to one another. Nivea, for example, launched a product and they said: 'Wrinkles that are produced by sugar need certain compounds in order to combat them'. So, they developed a product to help there. We can see where this is going."