At Vitafoods 2023, Rick Miller, associate director of specialised nutrition, will examine key trends driving this consumer demand, and discuss how formulators can tap new emerging market opportunities.
What key trends are currently impacting the sports nutrition sector?
“Three key trends are strongly impacting sports nutrition at present. The first centres on the continued drive towards more plant-based formulations and the second is a move towards human and environmental sustainability within the category.
“Thirdly, an overall ethos on low-sugar sports nutrition continues to strongly resonate across the sector as it has done for several years now. This low sugar shift is a particular challenge for certain product lines and formulators - athletic performance, health, and consumer choice all need to be balanced within the context of fuelling with carbohydrates.”
What innovative ingredients and applications will you be highlighting in your presentation?
“Brands and formulators continue to innovate within these trends through experimentation of plant and dairy blends within protein powders, as well as multi plant protein blends to achieve a taste, nutrient, and texture profile that satisfies both consumer tastebuds and performance.
“In sugar reduction, the functional fibre inulin has featured in 7% of global performance nutrition launches for the last three years. We’ll likely see more of these innovative ingredient substitutes that allow for a reduced glycaemic response and capitalise on recent diet trends such as ketogenic [or] low carbohydrate diets with functional benefits - such as prebiotic effects.”
How important is clinical evidence in convincing consumers of a product’s functionality?
“Evidence and transparency remain crucial assets to formulators across the sports and active lifestyle segments. Our data continues to highlight that consumers are sceptical regarding the claims made within sports, active, and lifestyle nutrition.
“For instance, our data across five European countries shows that on average, 28% of consumers don’t trust that sports nutrition products will deliver on the benefits they promise and 21% don’t have enough knowledge around them.
“Formulators and brands should therefore continue to think outside the box when it comes to demonstrating ‘proof’ regarding ingredient efficacy and further, making the ingredients relevant to ‘everyday performance’.
“One of the areas that we see some formulators beginning to embrace is the use of smart wearables and the health data that can be derived from these devices. A good example being Israeli start-up MyAir, which uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to predict consumer stress and tackle this with timed nutrient and adaptogen-rich snack bars to combat stress at the right times.”
How do you see the sports nutrition sector evolving over the next few years?
“Personalisation is the future of the sports nutrition industry at the recreational and elite level. As over-the-counter functional and wellness drinks start to encroach on the category space once only occupied by sports nutrition, brands are being squeezed for new innovation. Personalisation is that innovation, as consumers continue to hunger for more bespoke approaches to their daily and sports performance.”
Find out more by attending Rick’s presentation at Vitafoods 2023, entitled ‘Sports nutrition: how brands keep pace with a changing game’. You can also find out more about Mintel's research - for the UK market click here, and for a global view click here.
Rick Miller is Associate Director, Specialised Nutrition, at Mintel. He has extensive expertise in dietetics and performance nutrition, gleaned from a clinical career in hospitals as well working with professional teams and athletes up to Olympic level.