From Yuzu to Tart Cherry to Birthday Cake: Which novel flavors have staying power in sports nutrition?

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

JackF / Getty Images
JackF / Getty Images

Related tags Flavor Flavors New product development Sports nutrition Protein pre-workout

As sports nutrition brands continue to pop up, launching yet another chocolate or vanilla-flavored protein might not help a new brand get noticed.

So what flavors can sports nutrition brands experiment with that will not only attract the shopper’s eyes, but also deliver a pleasant experience that will have him or her coming back for more?

Illinois-based flavor company Synergy Flavors did all the hard work of finding and mapping out the rising starts of flavors for sports nutrition products in North America. They gathered insights from industry experts and then benchmarked the input with quantitative data like product launches and global search trends.

They crunched all that data down to come up with the new ‘Flavors of the Future’ hot list, which the company released today. (You can download the full report HERE​).

In sum, Synergy Flavors identified new and upcoming ingredients that are being used by chefs in their restaurants and evaluated the applicability of those in sports nutrition.

“The research results have been fascinating and using them as a guide, we aim to help product manufacturers seize the opportunity to be pioneers in flavor development and stay ahead of the game in the ever-evolving sports nutrition market,”​ said Alexandre Massumoto, marketing research lead at Synergy Flavors.

"Our Flavors of the Future research was a journey of discovery, going well beyond a typical research project to represent an in-depth analysis of the trends that will captivate the sports nutrition market in the near and longer term future – some of which are so novel to the market that those product manufacturers that are considering them are true trendsetters.”

Citing data from market and consumer research firm Mintel, 75% of consumers say flavor is the main influencer when purchasing a sports nutrition product.

Here’s a selection of emerging, growing, mainstream, and established flavors for the North American sports nutrition market, as collected by Synergy Flavors:

Emerging: Yuzu

Yuzu contrail1 GettyImages-498116188
contrail1 / Getty Images

By ‘emerging,’ Synergy Flavors meant that these flavors are “ahead of the curve, new to consumers, and generally too novel to be on menus.”

But considering lemonade and other citrusy flavors are already growing in the sports nutrition space (like Optimum Nutrition’s Lemon Lime Amino Energy​ or key-lime flavored whey protein​), Yuzu may ease right in.

The Yuzu citrus is tart, resembling more of a grapefruit with overtones of mandarin orange. The fruit itself, which grows wildly in central China, is rarely eaten as a fruit. But it is often used as a vinaigrette or to flavor desserts and fish dish in Japanese and Korean cuisine.

Growing: Tart Cherry

Tart Cherry Sanny11 GettyImages-579766124
Sanny11 / Getty Images

Tart cherry as a fruit already has a niche of adherents who consume the juice as post-exercise recovery, and it has some publishedstudies toback its post-workout benefits​. So it may be natural that more consumers will look for this flavor in sports nutrition products.

Synergy Flavors classified this flavors as ‘growing’ because it is “starting to appear in food products with potential to mainstream in the near future.”

In fact, there are already several tart cherry juice products on the market positioned for performance, such as Cherry Performer​.

Mainstream: Pecans

Pecan Amarita GettyImages-482483072
Amarita / Getty Images

As the name suggests, a ‘mainstream’ flavor is one that is “regarded as normal or conventional in a segment and poised to work in sports nutrition,”​ according to the report.

This native North American nut is one of them. A common ingredient in baked goods, Synergy noticed that there was a 402% growth in pecan flavors for ice cream products launched in Q4 2017 to Q1 2018, and they expect the pecan-craze to bleed into other segments.

One market example: Sports nutrition brand Redcon1 offers protein powders​ and bars with a ‘pecan pie’ flavor.

Established: Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake RuthBlack GettyImages-936595242
Ruth Black / Getty Images

A well-established flavor in a category means it’s poised for growth globally, according to Synergy Flavors. That’s the case with Birthday Cake flavored sports nutrition products.

Looking at past product launches, the report noted that birthday cake started to appear as a flavor around 2013 but reached its peak only in late 2016. It has dominated the sports bar and snack segment, with Quest Bar​, One​, and Optimum Nutrition all having launched  protein snack with this flavor.

Interested in Sports Nutrition?


The inaugural NutraIngredients-USA Sports Nutrition Summit​, in association with the International Society of Sports Nutrition, will bring together leading scientists, brands and retailers, market analysts, and innovators in a unique, market-leading face-to-face event. 

The key themes of this event include: 

- The “size of the prize”
- The power and importance of social media
- Positioning and differentiation
- Sports nutrition and the military - product use survey data and enhancing the performance of Warfighters
- The State of the Science: Sports, fitness and exercise Nutrition
- Sports Nutrition products and Elite Athletes 
- Alphabet soup: Everything brands need to know about GMPs, NDIs, AERs, DASCA, SARMs…
- Third party certification: What brands need to know
- Bacterial boosts – The microbiome and sports
- Personalization and the digital revolution
- Nootropics & sports nutrition

Register now to make sure you are there!

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