Clean recipes help sports nutrition enter the mainstream

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / HandmadePictures
© Getty Images / HandmadePictures

Related tags: Protein, Sports nutrition

The sports nutrition world in Latin America is experiencing a fast-paced and seismic shift, which sees it move out of the performance, athlete-rich arena into a wider, health-centered sphere.

Amrin Walji, Senior Innovation Analyst at Mintel explains that in Latin America, consumers are after clean recipes. Emphasizing the importance of ingredient transparency, product label clarity and health, the industry is honing in on ensuring its sports nutrition segment is set up to deliver on these demands.

Market intelligence provider, Euromonitor International asserts how sports nutrition remains an “evolving category”​ in the region. As part of its transformation, sports nutrition has passed its strong, yet singular positioning in the performance arena, and has instead, started to forge a positive place in supporting healthy lifestyles.

Clean ingredients

Artificial ingredients are a big consumer concern in Latin America. Market research provider, Mintel, reveals that the majority of US adults aged 18-54 consider performance drinks to be too high in artificial ingredients​. As such, brands are launching formulations and marketing campaigns that center on natural and unprocessed ingredients; their presence communicated through cleaner labels.

“Brazilian consumers see products with artificial ingredients or ingredients that they didn’t recognize as less healthy,” ​explains Ana Paula Gilsogamo, Food & Drink Specialist at Mintel.  “They also are looking for ingredients with nutritional/functional benefits from natural ingredients.”

According to Mintel Health Eating report, 26% of internet users aged 16 years and over who have healthy eating habits already, who are trying to have healthy eating habits, or who are interested in developing some healthy eating habits agree that: “Products/food seems less healthy to me if I can't recognize some ingredients on the description”​. In addition, 38% are interested in and would pay more for food and drinks with no artificial colors or flavors.

From performance to health

Several plant-based products are emerging in Latin America, for example, with a variety of supporting health-based claims. including:

  • Protein snack, KIND’s High Protein From Real Food Peanut Butter Bar, is free from GMOs, artificial flavors, sweeteners and gluten
  • Plant-based protein, Aloha Organic Chocolate Sea Salt Protein Drink contains prebiotics to improve gut health and electrolytes to replenish
  • PaleoEthics Surge Pre-Workout Beverage, which uses ‘real’ whole food ingredients and is vegan, paleo-friendly and free from additives and fillers

In Latin America, increasing numbers of consumers are aware of the clean eating niche, prompting expected sports nutrition sales figures to rise and post-growth rates to surpass those of the worldwide average between 2018-2023. The segment is anticipated to hit a CAGR of 9% in constant value terms.

Protein before Clean?

Protein products remain the most sought-after sports nutrition item, making up two-thirds of total sales in 2018. While the appeal and prominence of clean eating and associated recipes are edging into the segment, sports protein producers are expected to still lead with protein items to gain a foothold in the sports nutrition market, before expanding their product ranges.

By adopting this protein product-first approach, brands can leverage the heightened awareness of, and confidence in these items. In Latin America, consumers believe there are added benefits in a diet that is high in protein content, and that protein also offers positive pay-offs post-workout.

Hot Markets to Watch

With escalating interests in, and the uptake of, vegan and vegetarian diets, the plant-based revolution​ is set to spearhead the growth of sports nutrition. In terms of specific countries, Brazil is a hotbed for sport nutrition enthusiasts, currently the largest sports nutrition market in Latin America, accounting for 57% of total sales.

Commenting on what clean eating means to Brazilian consumers, Gilsogamo reveals: “Brazilians consumers have a cultural and habits connection with “in natura” ingredients. When they are looking for ways to both spend less money and have healthy eating meals and habits they often cook their meals/foods from scratch at home, frequently using “in natura” ingredient.”

According to Mintel Cooking Habits – Brazil, October 2018 report, 55% of Brazilians cook at home using natural/home-made ingredients and ready-made/processed ingredients (e.g. ready-made tomato sauce, seasoning cubes).

Also, 55% of the Brazilian internet users aged 16 years and over that have cooked at home in the last three months says that they cook at home to save money, and 31% to be able to control the ingredients used in each dish.

In this scenario, products more natural and less processed are gaining relevance among Brazilian consumers. A total of 51% of Brazilian internet users aged 16 and over who have healthy eating habits already, who are trying to have healthy eating habits, or who are interested in developing some healthy eating habits say that they are interested in and would pay more for organic/natural food and drinks.

Also, 69% of Brazilian interviewees agree with the statement: “A healthy meal is only made with fresh (eg vegetables) or minimally processed ingredients(eg white rice, flours)”.​ 

After overcoming restrictions in 2018 that were previously enforced by local legislation, Brazilian brands are driving forward with product launches. We can now expect brands entering or expanding in Brazil to create new foodstuffs; generating unprecedented levels of growth in sports nutrition between 2018 and 2023. 

Clean eating brands that prioritize internet retailing can expect to do well too. The channel is strong in Latin America, especially Argentina, where a total of 43% of sales emanate from digital efforts and interactions, often associated with convenience and affordability.

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