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Exploring the global trends that are shaping sports nutrition products – Interview

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Sports nutrition products have gone from being the preserve of top athletes to everyday grocery items of consumers around the world, and the category is being shaped by macro-trends, such as plant-based, clean label, and the rise of e-gamers. Sanjeevani Dubey explores this rapidly evolving category.
Resources

Sanjeevani Dubey, principal consultant of food and beverages at market research firm Future Market Insights, will be giving an overview at Vitafoods Virtual Expo Europe, which runs from 14-17 November. Click here to find out more about the event.

What can manufacturers do to meet the demand for clean-label ingredients? What impact will plant-based ingredients have in this area?

“True potential for growth in the industry lies in targeting emerging economies that are becoming opportunity hotbeds for global markets. Manufacturers should implement robust go-to-market strategies such as collaborations, partnerships, M&A, and divestitures, in addition to focusing on organic growth. Key players operating in the global clean-label ingredients market also focus on strategic collaboration with local distributors in the emerging countries to reach a large consumer base.

“When compared to global meat or dairy protein sales, plant-based ingredients still represent something of a niche. But demand is rising fast, particularly among flexitarian consumers. However, the ultra-processed nature of many meat and dairy analogues – necessary to deliver the taste and texture that consumers expect – is under the microscope.

“Demand for plant-based ingredients is booming; however, meat and dairy alternative proteins are facing something of a challenge, as the nutritional content of products [also] comes under the microscope. The intersection between clean-label and plant-based ingredients could prove fertile ground for innovation.”

What are the latest flavour and texture trends? How can these be balanced with products’ health benefits?

“A substantial amount of time is being spent on research and development activities by key players, giving rise to variety of new products in the plant-based protein market.

“To keep products’ nutritional value in check with flavour and texture, producers must focus on each node of the supply chain, starting from raw material sourcing, which consists of nutritional benefits, and processing.”

How is sports nutrition being adapted for e-gamers?

“When thinking about e-gamers, many people picture a stereotype — someone who sits all day loading up on pizza and sugary drinks. However, savvy e-gamer athletes often use good nutrition to gain an edge on the competition.

“Experts in sports nutrition at UPMC Sports Medicine in the US recommend e-gamers focus on a lean and high-protein diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. They should incorporate omega-3s, such as fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, for brain health benefits, while potassium and magnesium play a big part in reflexes, co-ordination, and muscle function.”

How are manufacturers innovating to create products that impact cognitive as well as physical abilities?

“Brain wellness ingredients that seem to best benefit athletes – and consequently are getting more play in sports nutrition – are those that promote better focus and concentration; reduce feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression; and aid sleep. These include botanical extracts, but also proteins and lipid-based products.

“Manufacturers and suppliers are beginning to incorporate botanical extracts into formulas for athletes. Brands that can successfully capitalise on the overlap between brain health, physical fitness, and athletic performance will perhaps be best positioned to benefit from current trends.”

What does personalised nutrition look like for the sports nutrition market?

“Based on consumer demand, personalised nutrition products are available in various flavours. Over the past few years, outdoor activities are attracting not only sportspeople, but others, too, increasing sports nutrition sales in worldwide.

“In addition, personalisation in fitness and health is very important. Personal instructors are the first step to personalising wellness, health, and workouts. Gradually, the sports nutrition market has also started to understand how diverse individuals are. Manufacturers are making an additional effort to concentrate on specific vitamin and nutrient needs when making products.”

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