Sports Nutrition Summit 2019

Vegan Sports Nutrition: Now is the time to shape the future of the industry

By Nikki Hancocks contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Sports Nutrition Summit panel (from left): Nathan Gray, Dr Adam Carey, Tom Morgan and Ryan Page
The Sports Nutrition Summit panel (from left): Nathan Gray, Dr Adam Carey, Tom Morgan and Ryan Page
The sports nutrition industry is on the crest of some tenacious trends and now is the time to lead the market with strong product innovation that will shape the industry over the coming decades.

This was the message from the future focused panel discussion at NutraIngredients Sports Nutrition Summit in Amsterdam last week (September 6th).

Hosted by NI's Senior Editor Nathan Gray, panel speakers discussed the dangers of the desperate flurry of vegan sports nutrition products entering the market. 

First the worst, second the best?

Tom Morgan, senior market analyst at Lumina Intelligence, pointed out that often brands can be so keen to be first to market with their innovations that the products they bring to market might not quite hit the mark and they just pave the way for the next, improved, contender. He added that this is an important potential trap to be aware of when creating vegan products.

“This is a new market that will last and this is a point where the industry is shaping it so what we do now will affect the market over the next few years - do it well now to set the trend for the future.”

Dr Adam Carey, chair of ESSNA, agreed adding that being “first to market isn’t necessarily going to make you win the market”.

Overall well-being and healthy ageing

The speakers agreed that sports nutrition is quickly moving into the general active lifestyle space so there is a growing demand for sports nutrition products with benefits for overall well-being and anti-ageing.

Lumina data has shown an increased interest in sports nutrition products with added probiotics and well-being is one of the health claims which garners the highest engagement online, according to Morgan. 

Dr Carey added that the veganism trend is in-line with the interest in 'overall well-being'.

“I’m sure that overall well-being will be a massive area of growth,"​ he said. "We’ve heard a lot about the trend for veganism and if you think about where we are going from - hard core sports to active nutrition - I can see the sports nutrition industry going into ongoing healthy ageing.

“I think that’s going to be a really big demand with the ageing population over the next couple of decades.

“If you take a population from around the globe that is mostly vegan or plant based they tend to have the most fantastic microbiome. The problem is, how do we encourage that to develop here?"

Botanicals and the education journey

Asked whether they felt botanicals would play a role in sports nutrition in the future, Morgan said that the more educated consumers would always be on the lookout for products with added oomph, often through botanicals.

“They want to see benefits on top of benefits so a protein powder that can also keep them energised throughout the day, for example, will really appeal.”

Dr Carey added that consumers newer to the market tend to want simple solutions but as they grow their knowledge they start to want more complex solutions as they become more comfortable with their understanding of the ingredients.

“Smarter consumers that have spent more time in the market are starting to make their own products at home with their own botanicals that they find efficacious," he said.

“I’m sure we will see these combination products expand as consumers become more informed. Then there are those that know very little and want very few ingredients in their products.”

He added that this means industry players need to continuously educate the different segments of the audience as they enter and become more accustomed with the market.

“It’s a constant cycle, it’s a journey of education and botanicals come further down in that cycle.”

Whilst those newer to the market are likely to be looking for products that can provide immediate health benefits, Morgan suggested that those further along in their journey are likely to be more interested in preventative solutions and healthy ageing.

“People earlier on in their journey tend to buy into products where there’s an obvious need and a clear result. The more educated are more keen to buy into products that are about preventative solutions and healthy ageing.”

“Personalised nutrition will break through with the better educated consumer too as there is a whole spectrum of needs and as we learn more we recognise our needs are quite complicated.”

Ryan Page, NPD manager at USN, argued that many botanicals can appeal to both the new and the more experienced sports nutrition consumer if they are offered in the right format.

"With turmeric, for example, someone comfortable with that ingredient might take it in capsule form, whereas someone newer to the concept might be more accepting of a turmeric latte."



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