Tom Morgan, market analyst for Lumina Intelligence, presented research into online reviews of sports nutrition products across 19 countries at Nutraingredients’ Sports Nutrition Congress last week (September 24th), explaining that online reviews are fast becoming the new currency in modern retail.
“Whilst word-of-mouth used to be the most trusted means of getting recommendations, as the consumer is buying more and more online, word-of-mouth is also moving online in the form of reviews,” Morgan explained.
The plant-based problem
The Lumina research found that Google searches for vegan products are steadily on the rise, with a spike in searches in January each year since 2013. Yet plant-based protein reviews have been low in comparison to whey protein. He said this shows that consumers want plant proteins but they aren’t happy with what’s on offer.
Morgan added: “A recent survey by comparethemarket.com has found that the UK now has around 3.5 million vegans, or around 5% of the population, and numbers are expected to grow – as the importance of plant proteins in the sports nutrition space becomes a keen area of interest.”
However he pointed out that a number of plant-based products have hit the market at the same time recently so being a plant protein is no longer a differentiating factor on its own. He said products are missing the mark and suggested that offering differentiating health benefits as well as whey-alternative ingredients would be one way to better meet shoppers’ desires.
He said: “It’s time for companies with products already to reformulate and to improve their products. They need to find what resonates with consumers, and find differentiating factors.”
The wider trends
Just 5 years ago, creatine topped the chart for online review engagement globally. But engagement has gradually fallen, with BCAAs overtaking in 2015 and protein powder joining the lead in 2016.
Morgan pointed out this may be due to the fact that pre-workouts and Nitric oxide boosters are aimed primarily towards body-builders who are more critical of products. These consumers also used to make up the sports nutrition market but now protein powders and BCAAs increasingly appeal to the mass market.