The sports nutrition market, once a niche sector relying primarily on gyms for distribution, is now worth $2.07 billion (€1.67bn), according to Frost & Sullivan, with growth forecast to bring it to $6.13 billion by 2011.
The analysts suggest that many of the same trends driving demand for health foods, includin increased disposable incomes and busy lifestyles that offer little time for preparing healthy food at home, have made mainstream consumers the second largest end-user group for sports and fitness nutrition products.
But manufacturers are also working hard to capture a greater share of mainstream consumers. Better taste and texture of their products, which are now offered in flavours like cookies and cream, vanilla crisp, chocolate peanut and apple/cinnamon, has attracted a new profile of consumer.
New, convenient applications have also played a role in the evolving market. There is now widespread adoption of products such as ready-to-drink liquid foods and supplements in the form of bars, such as the Luna bar from ClifBar specifically targeted at women.
Energy bars, with the widest consumer profile of all sports nutrition products, grew by 23.5 per cent in 2004. Meal replacement bars have seen the most consistent growth of all products, with a 16.9 per cent rise over last year.
Even creatine and protein powders, the more established ingredients that have seen slowing growth in recent years, could be revived with the help of novel flavours and delivery technologies, predicts Frost.
The creatine market only grew by 4.2 per cent in 2004, a sharp contrast with the 50 per cent growth rates seen in the late 1990's."Along with these more apparent developments, there have been significant improvements in product efficacy," added V. Meenakshi Sundaram, research analyst with Frost.
He says that "technological innovations in process such as timely release of nutrients and new protein delivery systems" will generate further growth in the sports and fitness nutrition market.