Retail positioning sports nutrition's big challenge

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Retail positioning could bust sports nutrition segment out of negative image, according to analyst.
Retail positioning could bust sports nutrition segment out of negative image, according to analyst.

Related tags Nutrition

Establishing broad acceptance is the greatest challenge facing the sports nutrition segment today, and this hinges on the creation of local mainstream retail channels, according to one analyst. 

Consumer health analyst for Euromonitor International, Chris Schmidt, told NutraIngredients the European health claims rubric did not represent the biggest hurdle for the segment. Instead he said: “The biggest challenge is gaining broad acceptance of the category – presenting products as more consumer friendly than they used to be.”

He said this had been seen already in the UK with retail chains like Holland and Barrett and in the US with General Nutrition Centre (GNC). However, other countries like Germany had been slower off the mark.

Room for everyone

This, he said, would be in an “exercise in branding”, as​ products in these space were presented in a different way to those in specialised online retailers. 

“In the US there was this question of whether this would alienate hard-core users, but what we have seen there is that it hasn’t. There plenty of space for both,”​ he said.

He said this mainstreaming could in part be used to tackle the bad press received rightly or wrongly around various industry scandals.Traditionally, he said, the sports nutrition retail space has been online or through gyms. In the past Schmidt has said this niche placing has opened the sector to negative associations.

“Its close association with the niche bodybuilding world lent a negative image, revolving largely around concerns over suspect formulations, including steroids and other banned substances,”​ he said in a previous Euromonitor blog post​.

Cycling or wresting?

He said gyms remain an important distribution channel for countries like Russia and China​ that have less-developed retail markets and a strong tradition of state-subsidized athletic programs.

He said within this establishment of mainstream distribution channels there were local sporting cultures to consider. Speaking with us he said in Southern countries like Italy and Spain sports such as biking were popular, meaning there was a market tendency towards non protein products.

“But in countries like the Balkans wrestling and body building is a bigger thing,”​ he said, adding this meant protein products were more popular.  

According to Euromonitor data the biggest markets for non-protein endurance sports products - positioned as promoting endurance, hydration and faster recovery after exercise - are Spain, the UK, Germany, Italy and Belgium. The segment represented $493.4m in Spain in 2013. Spain and Belgium are the only categories to have grown in this sector from 2008, with the UK, Germany and Italy all dropping in retail value.

He added that the UK was still “fairly protein-centric”​ and “very advance by European standards”​. Sports protein products in the UK represented $304.3m (€219.5m) in retail value in 2013, while non-protein sports products came in at $160m (€115.4m) the same year. In France this divide split as $88.9m (€64.1m) protein, $42.9m (€30.9m) non protein, in Germany $133.2m (€96.1m) protein and $36.8m (€26.5m) non protein and inversely in Italy $48.5m (€34.9m) protein, $58.1m (€41.9m) non protein.

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