New Global Briefing: Sports Nutrition – The Evolution of Fitness and Consumers

Euromonitor International announces the latest global briefing in consumer health. Sports nutrition has remained a niche category in consumer health for decades. Current public health programmes to fight obesity and a wider consumer base are changing our understanding of sports nutrition towards a brighter and profitable future.

Public health policies, consumers and regulation drive sales of sports nutrition

High rates of overweight and obesity in many countries have become an important driver of public health policies for many governments, which are implementing programmes to curb the problem. Consequently, physical activity and exercise are essential elements in new public health policy.

Governments want their people to remain active to maintain their health and prevent chronic diseases in the future. Education and awareness campaigns are pushing all generations of consumers to adopt either sports or exercise in their daily lives. Young children are happily joining sports teams, while adults join gyms, and the elderly engage in safer fitness routines such tai chi, walking, and swimming.

Sports nutrition products are no longer just targeted at young men wishing to show off powerful muscles. The industry now moves to other types of consumers such as women, with new products formulated for them, and to main stream consumers, who like to exercise regularly, but are not serious athletes.

Unfortunately, tainted products and non-disclosure of banned ingredients, such as steroids, are negatively affecting the industry. Regulatory actions in the form of recalls, warnings and seizures increased in the 2008/09 period. Contaminated products have also affected the reputation of first class athletes through negative doping testing in professional team competitions and other events such as the Olympics.

Sports nutrition proved resilient to the economic downturn of 2009

The sports nutrition industry posted a global 5% growth in retail value sales to reach close to US$5 billion in 2009. North America represented 70% of those sales, but Eastern Europe showed the fastest growth at 14%. Protein powder is the most popular format in the world, representing 42% of total retail value sales in the same year.

The industry is highly fragmented, and only three companies, Abbot Laboratories Inc, Glanbia Plc, and General Nutrition Centers Inc (GNC) showed a combined value share of 23% in retail sales in 2009.

Innovation creates a blurry line with other type of products

The “softening image” of the sports nutrition industry is allowing for increased difficulty in separating energy drinks from protein RTDs; or some protein powders sold as dietary supplements with claims of supporting well-being for active people.

Most innovation in sports nutrition is seen in new formulations for women and teenagers since their bodies and fitness goals are different from the traditional young man. Improvements in the technology of whey protein processing and the use of nitric oxide are evident in new products. Nanotechnology is a novel breakthrough with nano particles of nutrients being incorporated in some formulations.

The future of sports nutrition shows a bittersweet contrast

On one side, current public health policies pushing for more people to adopt sports or exercise could spark a higher number of consumers to purchase sports nutrition products to help them achieve their fitness goals; however, on the other side, a stricter regulatory environment could threat to tighten the availability and marketing practices of sports nutrition.

For an in-depth analysis on the current trends of sports nutrition, please consult our new global briefing highlighting the latest analysis and prospects for this dynamic industry.