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Euromonitor International Senior Analyst Dimitrios Dimakakos recently presented at the 4th Sports & Performance Nutrition conference. Held before the FIBO fitness exposition in Cologne on the 1st and 2nd April 2014, the conference centred on the need to educate consumers about sports nutrition products in the face of growing interest in exercise and succeeded in bringing together international players from different backgrounds including manufacturers, retailers, ingredients’ producers and market experts. Euromonitor International presented the latest trends in the US and Western Europe markets, highlighting similarities and differences between the two regions as well as providing analysis on the future performance of sports nutrition.

Online Channel is Booming

Distribution remains a fundamental issue for sports nutrition manufacturers and retailers as they increasingly target more non-core users in order to expand their customer base and propel the market further. However, awareness is a key word when it comes to Sports Nutrition products and many consumers do not understand how to use these products or how they can benefit from them. From discussions held during the event it is clear that the internet is becoming even more of an important tool for sports nutrition growth, particularly given the booming sales of internet capable portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. The internet allows easy and widespread access to information on sports nutrition products, to find evidence about ingredients as well as being a convenient method of purchasing products which are also then delivered to your door. According to Euromonitor International, online sales of Sports Nutrition products increased by 10% CAGR globally in the review period between 2008 and 2013, demonstrating the dynamism of this channel. The growth of internet retailing has taken distribution share from other healthcare specialist retailers, such as General Nutrition Centers Inc in the US and Holland & Barrett (NBTY Inc) in the UK. However, conference attendees were optimistic that investment in brick-and-mortar specialty retailers in growing markets like Germany could raise category awareness.

New Product Launches Target the Consumers of Tomorrow

Innovation has always been an important priority for sports nutrition producers. Manufacturers and retailers are trying to clean up the category’s image by providing more approachable formulations and convenience formats. While powder formats continue to represent the majority of global sales of sports nutrition, ready-to-drink products and protein bars are gaining ground, because of their appeal among mass market consumers and less serious sports enthusiasts.  Moreover, the category can expect new product launches targeting specific demographics. Female consumers are an attractive target audience, and innovation is starting to pick up pace, with launches such as Muscle Pharm’s FitMiss in the US and PhD Nutrition’s PhD Woman in UK.  It has been noticed that recovery, weight control and energy are the main objectives of the busy female population and as a result, calorie content and convenience should be reflected on the packaging.

Seniors represent an interesting expansion demographic. There is a growing shift in older consumers’ views toward aging. The concept of active aging – extending the quality of life through proactive health maintenance, including better nutrition and more physical activity – is redefining how older consumers view themselves and their eating and purchasing behaviour. While the traditional areas of focus for sports nutrition products – including building mass and competing at the highest level – do not align with their concerns, the heart, bone and muscle health claims associated with protein could appeal to active agers, particularly if paired in more muted, functional-health-focused marketing.

The Future Looks Optimistic

Euromonitor International estimates sales of Sports Nutrition products to reach $13 billion in 2018, a 9% CAGR growth from 2013. With an array of potential opportunities, the future looks positive for the industry. A question that I raised in the conference was about the best way to approach some more challenging core Southern European markets like Spain or Italy where exercise habits differ from Northern European cultures. For example, there is a tendency to exercise less in fitness clubs but for consumers in these countries to take part in more recreational activities such as football, basketball or running. Given the general economic situation, the premium pricing inherent to the category, and the divergence between local consumer needs and the sports nutrition’s traditional marketing focus, these markets are expected to experience lower growth in the forecast period. However, one response to these challenges could be greater investment in consumer education, including more focus on products’ functional nutrition qualities (more energy, greater endurance or quicker recovery, as opposed to muscle building and maximum exertion) could increase the category’s appeal.

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