Sales of sports and weight loss supplements will continue to grow at a fast pace over the next few years helped by increased investment in packaging, marketing and advertising. The segment is already the fastest growing in the $ 17.7 billion (€18.7bn) US supplement market, according to a new report from Nutrition Business Journal.
Image is vital for both sports and energy supplements, hence the heavy investment in marketing, said the NBJ, but this has helped the segment to remain recession-resistant compared to other sectors of the market. Supplement retailers questioned by NBJ for its report said they had seen no softening of demand for sports and weight loss products despite the downturn in the US economy.
In fact, the market has continued to grow at a faster pace than before the recession, the NBJ said. The market for sports and weight loss supplements was worth around $9.9-billion in 2001, up 15 per cent on 2000. Growth in 2000 had been 13.6 per cent.
The increase was driven mainly by higher sales of weight loss pills, energy drinks and liquid meal supplements, as well as continued strength in bars. There was also a high level of new product introductions in all five subcategories.
The NBJ divided the sports nutrition market into two different parts. The market for sports nutrition supplements (including powders, formulas, pills, and so-called 'hard core' drinks) was worth $1.74 billion in 2001, up 9 per cent on 2000 but showing a slight slowdown compared to 10 per cent growth in 2000.
The other part of the market, sports functional foods, which includes all nutrition bars and sports and energy beverages, generated $1.38 billion and $2.92 billion respectively last year, up 21 per cent and 16 per cent compared to 2000. Combined, these sports functional foods categories showed growth of 18 per cent, well ahead of the 7-8 per cent growth in the broader $18.5-billion US functional food category, NBJ said.
In the weight loss subcategories, weight-loss pills and liquid meal replacements grew 20 per cent and 11 per cent in 2001, together contributing $3.9 billion.
Despite this steady growth, the NBJ sounded a note of caution. While the top 10 manufacturers account for 51 per cent of $7.5 billion in wholesale sales (including exports), the NBJ said that the distributors and retailers it interviewed for the study were quick to stress the fickleness of American consumers. Brand popularity can shift dramatically, they said, with today's most popular brands just as likely to become tomorrow's has-beens. Weight loss is even more of a roller coaster, they said, driven by consumers' quest for a 'magic pill', while both categories are likely to be affected by market swings related to controversial ingredients.
With this in mind, the NBJ stressed that the most likely means of ensuring further growth is for companies to remain adaptable and for them to take advantage of the changing business and regulatory environment. Further investment in brands, to make them impervious to the fickleness of the market, is also vital, the NBJ concluded.
The NBJ report, Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss Market III is available from the magazine's website and costs $120 for non-subscribers.