Special edition: Sports nutrition

Drinks innovation boosting sport nutrition

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sports nutrition, Nutrition

Boosting energy, strength and recovery are just three ways that sports drinks are expanding a booming market, as bars, shots, and powders strain to catch up with the leaders in the field.

Datamonitor, which classifies sports nutrition as sports drinks and energy bars, places the European market at US$2.8bn (€2.3bn) in 2008, with a forecast to reach $3.6bn (€2.95bn) by 2013.

In the US, sports nutrition sales were valued at $2.9bn (€2.4bn) in 2008, forecast to grow to $3.5bn (€2.9bn) by 2013. Nick Smith, commercial director for Glanbia Performance Nutrition, described the US market as “more hardcore”​ and “10 years ahead of Europe”​.

As the first part in our series​ showed yesterday, sports nutrition is increasingly mainstream. Cyanotech’s Bob Capelli told NutraIngredients recently that bodybuilding, the previous mainstay of sports nutrition, is a limited market. “Bodybuilders spend a lot of money, but it’s only a small percentage of the population,”​ he said. The company’s astaxanthin ingredient is used at the opposite end of the sports spectrum by endurance athletes such as triathletes.

With the rise of the ‘lifestyle users’, as called by market research firm Datamonitor, manufacturers are producing more ‘softer’ products with lower protein contents, said Smith.

Smith said that he has witnessed a convergence of delivery formats, with the drinks, bars, gels, and shots leading the way. From a flavour perspective, there is increasing interest in the superfruits, he said, with pomegranate, cranberry, and blueberry doing well.

The big names in the mainstream sports nutrition arena remain the beverages, with the likes of Gatorade (PepsiCo), Lucozade (GlaxoSmithKline), and Powerade (Coca-Cola) dominating.

Differentiation is evident with products targeting energy, recovery and strength. Indeed, GSK’s Lucozade offers a range of formulations promoting hydration, fuel, focus, recovery and strength.

Gatorade is following the same trend with its ‘before, during, and after’ range. The ‘before’ range contains electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, 10 per cent of your daily requirements of B-vitamins (niacin, B5 and B6) to help the release of energy, and carbohydrates. The ‘during’ products contain electrolytes and carbs, while the ‘after’ products contains added protein.

Nestlé is also eyeing a greater share of the sports beverage market. The world’s largest food company recently announced an extension of agreement with the World Triathlon Corporation to introduce new Ironman Perform ready-to-drink sports beverage in June 2010. The formulation is based on findings from a clinical study published in 2008 in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise​ (Vol. 40, pp. 275-281).

Sponsoring

The sponsoring of major sporting events remains a subject of controversy. Only this week the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) expressed concerns that McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Budweiser are sponsors or partners for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

“It is disappointing that these companies have been chosen as sponsors and partners. The FIFA website describes sponsorship as an opportunity to promote brands on a global basis and we would argue that it is a real own goal to be giving this opportunity to companies that are known for unhealthy products,”​ said Teresa Nightingale, General Manager for WCRF.

While the cost of sponsoring an event such as the World Cup may be beyond the marketing budget of many players in the sports nutrition world, avenues to sponsor at a local or national level do exist.

The recent Winter Olympics saw some ingredient suppliers and manufacturers step up to help national teams attain a place on the podium. DSM put its weight behind the Dutch bobsled team, as part of the company’s “Innovation is our Sport” programme (the Dutch did not make the podium).

In Beijing, the company provided Dutch athletes with 20,000 servings of the powdered form of its PeptoPro, in partnership with the Dutch Olympic Committee/Dutch Sports Federation.

Various members of Canada’s Winter Olympics team were sponsored by Cold-FX, a proprietary ginseng extract, to boost immune health and ward off colds. The bronze medal moguls skier Shannon Bahrke (USA) counts Bioenergy Ribose amongst her sponsors.

There is still significant life in the protein market, however. At last year’s IFT trade show soy protein producer Solae hosted Derek Poundstone, the most decorated strongman athlete in the US, on their booth.

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