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Consumers worldwide are adopting healthy living and following fitness trends, especially across developed markets where healthy lifestyle aspirations have become more common. This is translating into an expanding consumer base for sports nutrition products.
However, to succeed, companies need to understand the evolving consumer base and changing user profiles, including use of social media and crowdculture*, for better consumer communication and tailored product innovation to fuel consumer demand, especially around plant-based proteins and clean labelling. This and more is discussed in our latest Sports Nutrition Global Briefing.
*Crowdculture: A term coined by Douglas Holt which refers to a group of digital natives keen to share experiences and activities with like-minded friends and acquaintances.
Source: Euromonitor International
1. Expanding demographic base includes new types of users: New types of sports nutrition users are being born from the growing consumer base following healthy living and fitness trends. In addition to traditional Core Users (bodybuilders and athletes) and Casual Users (recreational athletes), broad categories of new sports nutrition users are emerging, particularly in developed markets with established sports nutrition marketplaces. The new type of users are Lifestyle Users and mConsumer Users.
Lifestyle Users are mainly young, affluent consumers who invest heavily in fitness as a fundamental aspect of a healthy, high-performance lifestyle. Their demands for functionality are high, but they are unwilling to sacrifice health and wellness claims (such as organic, all natural, sustainable and non-GMO) that drive their sports nutrition purchases. Many of them prefer plant-based proteins and are known for taking their “selfies of sweat” for social media seriously, not necessarily to show off, but to build or feed a network of accountability partners.
Then there are mConsumer Users. These people are digitally-engaged at all times, and track fitness and wellness goals with apps, smart wearables, and smart homes. They want more personalised nutrition options and are the most keen to sign up for membership services if they truly love a company.
2. Engaging the right crowd culture to capture new consumers: While sports nutrition companies have to expand product lines in order to feed new consumer needs from the broader base of clients, firms also need to engage the right audience by investing in crowdcultures. This is critical because the expanded sports nutrition consumer base does not have brand loyalty and is keen to follow sports nutrition products within their own crowdculture(s).
With thousands of sports nutrition brands worldwide, individual brands are having a hard time differentiating themselves, unless they can meet the lifestyles and values within a specific crowdculture. The challenge is to partner with the right group or profile, which could even include a social media fitness influencer.
3. Plant-based protein rising demand: With over 80% of sports nutrition coming from protein-based products and a global high-protein diet trend promoting staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight, sports protein products will continue to lead the industry. Within this category, plant-based proteins will stay in demand for health, sustainability and animal rights reasons. New players still have the first-mover advantage because the marketplace does not yet have many brand options positioned as plant-based sports nutrition, certainly not on a mass consumer level. Along with this trend, demand for clean label sports nutrition options is expected to rise as well.
4. Regulations and safety concerns: Regulations around sports nutrition can vary greatly by market. While in countries such as the US and Australia producers can select from a wide range of ingredients and claims, the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR) is much stricter. And even though in 2016 the EU announced there is no need for specific sports nutrition regulations (ie sports foods are able to fit within General Foods Law provisions), there are still nutrition and health claims challenges because the regulation is now very broad. Meanwhile, illegal ingredients banned by organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have been found in many sports nutrition products worldwide, which is making the adoption of safety certifications such as those provided by NSF (for sports supplements), and Informed Sport, more relevant.
5. Beyond 2017 expectations: Sports nutrition will continue expanding from core bodybuilder/athlete users to a broader consumer base. While this expansion is mainly taking place among developed markets such as the top three sports nutrition countries worldwide (the US, the UK and Australia), consumers in less developed (but fast growing) markets such as China, India and Brazil will continue to evolve as well.
The common denominator that will keep driving growth is the global trend for healthy living and fitness goals, which in turn might shape the image of the industry itself. Already, companies are discussing whether a more apt name for the industry would be “Lifestyle Nutrition” or “Active Nutrition” to better appeal to this broader emerging consumer base.