Jack Weekes, new product development (NPD) supervisor for sports nutrition brand Bulk Powders, has given his insight into the biggest opportunities and hurdles for the sports nutrition industry and revealed some of the brand’s trend-setting plans for 2019.
The supplements specialist admits that innovating in this crowded marketplace is no mean feat.
“Innovation is something that consumers still really look towards so continuing to deliver innovation is essential for the business," Weekes told NutraIngredients.
"but continuing to offer originality in a congested marketplace is one of the biggest hurdles we face in 2019,”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, veganism and sustainability are two trends high on the innovation team's agenda for the coming year.
“We see a lot more consumer interested in natural and sustainable products," says Weekes. "One of the most common queries we get is whether we use grass-fed whey. Both our Pure Whey Protein and Pure Whey Isolate are from grass-fed cattle.
"Alongside this, we see a lot of people switching from traditional BCAAs and leucine to vegan wherever possible. It polarises people, but veganism is only becoming bigger."
Bulk Powders recently launched its vegan range, the Vegan Series, which boasts a 'core sports nutrition' approach. Weekes says this gives the products a strong USP as competitors have had a 'softer' approach to vegan innovation.
"It’s easy to slap pea protein and brown rice protein together and call it a ‘vegan blend’, it’s not easy to put a natural, allergen-free series together and make it taste really good. In fact, it's really quite hard to make this taste good! But we've managed to create something really quite tasty.
"We are also the only people in the country to provide a vegan all-in-one protein powder.”
The new vegan range boasts magnesium from pumpkin seed, as well as protein for muscle pro-synthesis along with standard protein claims.
Can you stomach it?
Seeing that veganism is going to continue to grow in popularity, Bulk Powders will expand its range of vegan products in 2019 but Weekes says these innovations will also incorporate the new-found interest in gut health.
"We want to provide vegan products with gut health and digestion in mind.
"Cellulose and plant-based fiber are not always that easy to digest so we want to provide products that cater to the need for more gut friendly vegan options.”
Also tapping into the interest in gut health, Bulk has launched a range of probiotic products including Pro Culture which includes prebiotic fiber.
"You could call this a synbiotic as it's a 20 billion strength strain with inulin and it's is designed to be a complete pro-level probiotic health product."
Honesty is the best policy
With the rise of the more educated consumer, Weekes says that sports nutrition brands have to be on the ball with their dosage declarations.
“If you roll back five or ten years ago you would have seen proprietary blends with undeclared doses of active ingredients but consumers won’t accept this any more.
“We see online, especially on social media, more and more customers calling companies out if they’re seen to do proprietary blends or under-dosing active ingredients.
“We’ve always been transparent and ensured we dose our formulas properly anyway but it’s good that customers are becoming more aware of the importance of this.”
Snacks with attack
With the popularity of snacking showing no signs of slowing, Weekes says protein bars are still an essential NPD avenue.
“Our new Macros Much protein bars, launched last year, are our competitor for the leading protein bar, Grenade Carb Killa.
“Our bar is soft baked which means its got a sort of confectionery style texture which is quite unusual as often protein bars can be like bricks.
“The other USP for this range is the interesting flavours on offer, including a Millionaire Shortbread flavour which is the only protein bar in this flavour in the UK."
As the competition in the protein bar market grows, interest in more traditional flavours has taken a dive while the more unusual flavours are now pulling in the punters.
“Generally speaking, I see people are much more interested in trying more interesting and unusual flavours now. We want to innovate in flavours like this over the coming year to help us to differentiate ourselves from every other brand."
A head for health
In-line with the consumer trend witnessed throughout the health industry, Weekes says consumers are set to become more interested in products that can benefit their brain health.
He hinted at Bulk's plans for expansion in this area.
"Cognitive health is a big area of interest in the US and trends that start there tend to make their way over the Atlantic so we plan to launch products with this in mind in order to keep us ahead of the curve.”