'there is a risk that brands alienate their core consumers'

Sports nutrition 2.0: The category is playing a dangerous game

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

'There is a clear dichotomy between those interested in performance optimisation and health optimisation...' ©iStock/kieferpix
'There is a clear dichotomy between those interested in performance optimisation and health optimisation...' ©iStock/kieferpix

Related tags Sports nutrition Nutrition European specialist sports nutrition alliance

Sports nutrition has long-expanded beyond its hardcore niche to become a global multi-format, multiple demographic, multi-billion euro behemoth – but is everybody winning in the game of sports nutrition 2.0? We asked sector expert Nick Morgan from Sports Integrated for his views.

The broadening of sports nutrition has enriched the sector financially – but has it in terms of performance products?

“The growth of the category is encouraging but as it tries to appeal to a wider exercise audience it has caused a significant blur between markets, specifically health and wellness. Currently the overwhelming trend is to develop products for this wider exercise audience but this neglects the fact that the core, performance orientated consumer maintains the highest weight and frequency of purchase.

"Without doubt performance products remain fundamental to the market, but there is a risk that brands alienate their core consumers in their desire to attract a wider audience.”

Can the mainstream and the elite continue to live under the same banner when the products are so different?

“Conclusions from my work with Volac [UK-based whey supplier] indicate no. Whilst exercise is the common denominator consumers are less defined by ‘what’ they do, but more so ‘why’ they do it. There is a clear dichotomy between those interested in performance optimisation and health optimisation, and products need to better reflect that in their formulations, positioning and communications.

"Currently, the term ‘sports nutrition’ has become a catch-all term, resulting in a confusing co-existence of products. There is a need to redefine the category to ensure that the true essence of what made sports nutrition successful in the first place is maintained for the growing number of potential consumers.” 

Is there a difference between weight management, healthy ageing and mainstream sports nutrition?

“It depends on who you ask, and what angle they view it from. Consumers are more likely to view them that way, however, if you view from a practical nutrition perspective, they are inherently linked. For example, protein, and its effect on muscle growth is well known, but we can’t forget its role on muscle health and the potential for cardio-metabolic benefits which supports weight management.

“We clearly see healthy ageing as the generational shift of current active nutrition consumers, adopting the core principles of exercise and a protein rich diet.”

sports nutrition drink beverage iStock.com Nikola1988

Is there a problem with promoting the idea of ‘aspiration’ to people who may be consuming the products for more image-based reasons?

“Aesthetic nutrition is, and remains, a primary driver of this category. Whether it is the origins of bodybuilding, or body composition and tone – ‘weight wellness’ - for exercise enthusiasts. Brands need to understand how to best tap into this insight when developing products.”

Should formulators bother with efficaciousness when making mainstream products?

“Always. We risk losing the importance of nutrition to influence health, and optimise it in combination with exercise. If we lose efficaciousness, we blend too much with ‘health and wellness’ products which predominantly look to help people make better decisions more often.

"This is important – helping people to make simple swaps and better choices – however, there are proactive strategies we can adopt to optimise health and that is what sports nutrition should be striving to do.”

Are regulations reflecting this changing market for instance in regard to protein, carbohydrates, caffeine, ketones and more?

Nick Morgan will speak at #SNC16

“They’ve changed the way we have to operate. However, I don’t think it reduces the opportunity available for ingredients and products that have a robust platform of science and practical application, and tune in to the key consumer insights or barriers.

"When these factors are addressed, ingredients and product propositions tend to be successful and crucially, sustainable over time.”  

You’re speaking at #SNC16 in Frankfurt on 28 November - what will sports nutrition brand owners learn there?

"To get a clear view on the evolution of the sports nutrition, and how they can navigate successfully through shifting dynamics, trends and consumer goals to identify the opportunities that emerge within a re-segmented market."



Morgan will present more on this subject, along with other speakers at the NutraIngredients and European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) congress held in Frankfurt on November 28 the day before Health Ingredients Europe​. ​The event seeks to place your business front and centre of the playing field be it in supplements, herbals, powders, mixes, drinks, bars or gels.

More information here​.

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