The sports nutrition sector is growing rapidly. In an increasingly crowded field, it’s vital to offer products that deliver on consumer expectations. Let’s explore some of biggest trends in sports nutrition and how brands can maximise their chances of success.
Sports nutrition brands are creating products offering benefits above and beyond consumers’ traditional needs pre-, intra- and post-exercise. Products for recovery, for example, have been making greater use of immunity callouts since the onset of the pandemic. In 2020, the proportion of all sports nutrition launches featuring immune health claims rose from 7% to 12%.1 In some cases, brands have added immune-boosting vitamins and minerals to their formulations. Recovery and immunity have always been interlinked, so others have simply been able to draw attention to ingredients that were already present.
Other brands are enhancing their products’ appeal through calm, anti-stress and improved sleep claims. Stress and lack of sleep can have a negative impact on both general health and physical performance. Sports nutrition brands are therefore utilising ingredients with an anti-stress positioning like lemon balm and camomile, and calming amino acids such as L-theanine from green tea.
E-gaming is another exciting area. Sports nutrition brands are tweaking their formulations to suit the needs of gamers, increasing ingredients for energy, focus or eye health while reducing pump-type ingredients like beta-alanine and citrulline.
The plant-based protein market is predicted to increase from US$10.3 billion in 2020 to $14.5 billion by 2025—a CAGR of 7.1%.2 Innova data shows consumer concern around sustainability is one of the top four reasons for the growing demand,3 but the soaring cost of whey protein is another important factor. Whey prices are currently higher than at any stage in the last decade, leading many brands to explore alternatives such as soy, rice and pea proteins.
Whey is recognised as the gold standard for protein. With the right approach, though, brands can blend different plant proteins to create an optimal amino acid and nutritional profile with a top-tier protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). It’s also possible to add in fermentation-grade amino acids. In addition, the grainy texture of plant proteins can be challenging in product development. However, the addition of vegetable creamers such as Clean Cream can provide similar mouth feel to dairy shakes and improve the customer experience.
Focus on flavour
Flavour plays a crucial role in product success. Research suggests only health benefits and cost rank higher in sports nutrition shoppers’ priorities,4 while 37% are concerned about the aftertaste of high-protein snacks.5 In the UK, 77% say they would consume more sports nutrition products if they tasted better.6
In many cases, products need masking and modulation ingredients to ensure a clean-tasting flavour profile. There is also space to entice consumers with exciting new flavours, with Innova analysis suggesting the candy, cake and dessert variants seen in North America are set to achieve global popularity.7
Keeping it clean
“All-natural” claims and clean labels can help maximise sports nutrition products’ appeal. Mintel research shows “all-natural” ingredients would encourage more frequent usage of sports nutrition products among 75% of UK users.8 However, such claims are a rarity in performance nutrition, featuring in only 4% of launches in 2020.9
It can be challenging to create natural products that deliver on performance, taste and texture. Many are fortified with synthetic nutrients and rely on ingredients that involve high levels of processing. Nonetheless, these challenges can be overcome. For example, Prinova has previously sourced a combination of natural ingredients for a plant-based protein product to deliver a dairy-like mouthfeel and natural taste. The Aquamin range, meanwhile, can provide an effective source of minerals and supports both natural and plant-based claims.
Success without sugar
Sports nutrition brands are increasingly tapping into mainstream nutrition trends by cutting out sugar. In Asia, the number of performance nutrition launches with “no added sugar”, “sugar-free” or “low/reduced sugar” claims rose by 61% between 2017 and 2021.10 In the UK, 43% of performance nutrition launches in the first half of 2021 featured “low/reduced sugar” claims, with “sugar-free” and “no added sugar” accounting for a further 12%.11
Natural, plant-based sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol can deliver sweetness enhancement as well as flavour, improved mouthfeel and taste modulation.
Supply chain stability
Supply chain stability has become a huge issue globally, so it makes sense to work with a trusted provider with global reach. Prinova is one of the world’s largest distributors of ingredients including vitamins, amino acids and pea protein. This provides significant protection against supply chain instability and price volatility.
Prinova can also deliver bespoke premixes and all-in-one blends for ready-to-mix powder and beverage applications. Base formulations can be customised with flavours and sweetener blends based on your needs. The product development experience covers every step from market trend analysis to commercialisation.
1. Innova Market Insights 'Greater focus on flavours as sports nutrition mainstreams' (2021)
2. Markets and Markets ‘Plant-based Protein Market by Source’ (2020)
3. Innova Market Insights 'Powering up on plant protein' (2021)
4. Innova Market Insights 'Greater focus on flavours as sports nutrition mainstreams' (2021)
5. FMCG Gurus 'Sports Nutrition: The Road to Mainstream Consumption' (2022)
6. Mintel 'Attitudes Towards Sports Nutrition – UK, 2021'
7. Innova Market Insights 'Greater focus on flavours as sports nutrition mainstreams' (2021)
8. Mintel 'Attitudes Towards Sports Nutrition – UK, 2021'
9. Mintel 'Attitudes Towards Sports Nutrition – UK, 2021'
10.Mintel 'A Year of Innovation in Specialised Nutrition, 2021'
11. Mintel 'Attitudes Towards Sports Nutrition – UK, 2021'