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How brands can cater to the new sports nutrition consumer

Article-How brands can cater to the new sports nutrition consumer

© AdobeStock/Svitlana How brands can cater to the new sports nutrition consumer
The sports nutrition category has evolved to encompass nutrition for an active lifestyle, catering to a new audience beyond bodybuilders and competitive athletes. But how can brands capitalise on these opportunities without compromising their integrity?

This was just one of the topics covered during a Vitafoods Insights webinar with Scott Dicker, market insights director for the wellness-focused data technology company SPINS, and Nicholas Morgan, director of the consultancy Nutrition Integrated.

Reimagining creatine for an expanded demographic

Both speakers highlighted creatine as a long-standing ingredient that has found new life, with an increased focus on women and expanded health benefits.

Dicker described the nutrient as the next ashwagandha”, a botanical whose rapid growth in recent years took many of those in the industry by surprise. Creatine is similar”, he said, in the sense that it has been on the market for so long but you're finding the new audience”.

He pointed to emerging research around the benefits of females taking it throughout their menstrual cycle, as well as studies demonstrating its cognitive health benefits, as offering opportunities to be leveraged in brands’ marketing and product positioning.

Morgan agreed that creatine was a great example of an ingredient that's been around for a long time as redefining and reimagining itself” but added that he thought it was dividing the industry at the moment.

He said there was a remarkably interesting market to be tapped with regards to concussion. Despite a perception that this may be a niche area, when you look at the numbers, it’s very mainstream”, he said – both in the US and Europe.

“The nutrition that is in the concussion packs for athletes on their return to play creatine is normally important within that,” he said, adding: “Sometimes, you go down niches to get to a lot of people, and I think there's something there as well.

Dicker pointed to the ageing athlete as another potential market.

“There's a large percentage of people who are athletes and as [they] continue to age it goes way down, but you continue to have people interested in staying active, staying healthy,” he said.

A lot of brands that may have previously focused on “hardcore” bodybuilding or elite athletes have really softened” their marketing when it comes to this demographic, allowing the core consumer to remain in the category, but also expanding it to other groups, he added.

E-sports and the power of authenticity

Asked how the shift towards embracing a more active lifestyle, including e-sports, was impacting product development and marketing strategies within the industry, Morgan highlighted the importance of brand authenticity.

He said that “through the lens of sports, nutrition, and health impact, gaming has been interesting for a very long time”, adding that while nutrition was relatively nascent, it has been growing, particularly with regards to pre-workout and energy. However, he sounded a note of caution to sports nutrition brands looking to capitalise in this area.

“They see an opportunity to innovate, they see the opportunity within their current product range but do they have the permission of a brand to enter gaming?” he asked.

© AdobeStock/GorodenkoffHow brands can cater to the new sports nutrition consumer

It was important that brands ask the question whether they have permission to talk to a younger, digitally native group of people, that may or may not exercise but are definitely looking to have something around the area of energy,” he said.I think that's the big thing, really, for me, is actually it's all about brand permission.

He added: “There's definitely some classic sports brands where we look remarkably clunky, and despite having expertise in certain product formulations, I think they would really struggle.”

Dicker agreed, adding: We've seen that brands that really have started as gaming brands have really had much more buy-in and success… Most of the successful gaming brands are native to the gaming industry, and not bigger brands that are just seeing an opportunity there, and so it's a big positioning with these brands.

And there's different advertising structures, too things like Twitch and influencers on these gaming platforms is not where a lot of these sports and active nutrition brands usually play.

“So finding the right platforms to reach these consumers, regardless of how great your formula is, is really going to determine the brand’s success.

But he admitted that it still represented a huge emerging segment.

“One of the things that gets me excited about the category is that now there are branded ingredients being studied on gaming,he added. “…[T]he fact that new ingredients have been studied for this purpose and not just [for] bicep curl or endurance athletes and then trying to cross it over to the gaming segment really speaks to where this industry is going.