Sports Nutrition Summit 2020

Highlights from San Diego: Online reviews, influencers, latest research and more

By Hank Schultz, Danielle Masterson and Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Champion ultra distance runner Joseph Gray was one of the speakers at the Sports Nutrition Summit 2020. NutraIngredients-USA/Justin Howe
Champion ultra distance runner Joseph Gray was one of the speakers at the Sports Nutrition Summit 2020. NutraIngredients-USA/Justin Howe

Related tags: Sports Nutrition Summit USA, Sports Nutrition Summit, Sports nutrition products, Sports nutrition sector

The recent Sports Nutrition Summit brought cutting edge scientific and market insights to attendees who also had the opportunity to make important contacts with major players in the industry.

The Sports Nutrition Summit 2020 was put on by NutraIngredients-USA at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay hotel in San Diego.  The event brought together scientists studying the microbiome, sleep patterns of athletes, bioavailability enhancements, cannabinoids in sports products and more.  A wide array of sponsor booths in the networking area helped attendees easily connect with some of the key suppliers of ingredients and services in this arena.

Among the highlights:

Importance of online reviews

Tom Morgan of Lumina Insights, a William Reed Business Media property, shared what he has learned in combing through product reviews of sports nutrition products. Lumina has a business model of capturing what consumers are saying about products online as a way to measure their actual sentiment about the products.  Morgan now has enough data to be able to use it in a predictive fashion.

Looking at the prevalence of certain search terms, Morgan said the ways consumers are interacting with sports nutrition—and by extension weight management—products is changing.  Body acceptance is a rising trend, while finding ways to get that beach body is on the wane.

But Morgan said one thing that remains absolute:  If people are not talking about and liking your product online, you’re in trouble.

“Sixty-two percent of online buyers refer to reviews before making a decision,”​ Morgan said.

The number of reviews can be used in a predictive fashion to see which product categories are most at risk, he said.

“Product categories with the lowest reviews have the most chance of being dropped,” ​he said.

Supporting pro soccer players

Another interesting session, of a sort never presented before at the event, was put on by Lloyd Parker, director of nutrition at the Everton Football Club of the Barclay’s Premier League, the top level of English soccer.  Parker told the audience how he has reformed the club’s approach to fueling the players.  When he arrived, players were being fed stale pre made sandwiches, canned soup, pre-poached, packaged eggs and candy bars.  Now the food is top notch and a long list of supplements are added in.

The identity conundrum of the female athlete

Marketing to female athletes has come along way since the ‘pink and shrink it’ strategy, but it’s still a challenge to address this market, Susan Kleiner PhD, founder of High Performance Nutrition, told the audience.

 “A female athlete may identify more like an elite [athlete], or a competitive athlete, whereas a woman who says, ‘I’m an athletic woman,’ may not be competitive. And then there are the women who are active as part of their lifestyle, but don’t identify as an athlete,”​ said Kleiner.

 “Then there are the women that are all of that, but don’t see themselves as athletes at all – and this is the conundrum. This is where we’ve got a huge opportunity.”

 Sports nutrition’s portrayal of the female athlete

Despite the complicated nature of marketing towards female athletes, the sports nutrition industry has made huge strides in promoting empowering images and message rather than the nearly bygone ‘sexy, skinny, diet’ messaging the industry so heavily relied on to appeal to athletic women.

“The sports nutrition industry is doing a great job in focusing on the female athlete, particularly online,” ​said Dr. Kleiner.

What does this online image of the female athlete look like? According to Dr. Kleiner, sports nutrition brands are getting better at highlighting the athletic ability of the female athlete rather than her sex appeal and physical appearance.

Growing interest in cannabinoids

Christine Fields, vice president of scientific affairs at Applied Food Sciences told the audience that interest in the application of CBD and other cannabinoids in sports nutrition continues to grow.

“There’s a lot of attention out there. In the last five years we have seen a hundred-fold magnitude change in the amount of research dollars spent in this area,”​ noted Christine Fields, vice president of scientific affairs at Applied Food Sciences.

The most promising areas within sports nutrition is in recovery and pain management, according to Fields.

“One of main categories is in all around systemic inflammation, and how it helps control and manage that. The other piece of that is around its ability to shunt the pain sensitization associated with intense or acute exercise events, so that you can one, increase your recovery a lot faster and two, you feel like you can go a bit harder,” ​she said.

Striking the right balance on social media

One panel featuring brand holder Jim Stoppani, academic Shawn Arent, PhD and corporate strategy consultant Joshua Schall offered their insights on how best to recruit and use influencers in a company’s online messaging.

While the panelists offered different takes on how to develop the best strategy for brands using online influencers, there was a common concern on stage for posts lacking education, science and credibility. All three panelists emphasized the need for more science and less “fluff.”

And, while some on the panel stuck to the line that “science sells” Schall had a contrarian take. His point of view the sports nutrition sector is still dominated by companies that emphasize marketing over substance.

Choosing the right strain

Ralf Jäger, PhD, a principal in the scientific consulting firm Increnovo, laid out the significant amount of science that backs the use of specific probiotic strains in sports nutrition applications.

“In athletic populations, certain probiotics strains can increase absorption of key nutrients such as amino acids from protein, and affect the pharmacology and physiological properties of multiple food components,”​ he said.

Looking ahead, Jäger predicts a mass market is on the verge of exploding, with a probiotic solution that is “in tune with the ‘fit’ consumer’s desire for natural supplements.”  

Supplements movie

The summit also featured a screening of an edited version of SUPPS: The Movie​, a documentary film about the supplements industry.  Filmmaker Alex Ardenti, was as a young weight lifting enthusiast an early adherent of Joe Weider, Arnold Schwarzeneggar and other giants of the sports nutrition field. Ardenti put together an entertaining and informative feature length film laying out the origin and evolution of some of the iconic brand names in the business.

Positive feedback

Feedback from the event was almost uniformly positive.  This comment from one attendee was typical:
“I enjoyed the event very much. It was an interesting mix of topics and the networking opportunities were well thought out and fun. I will encourage others to attend the next ones.”

Sports Nutrition Summit USA 2021

Join us next year to learn about the latest research from leading scientists, market analysts and come face-to-face with market leaders in San Diego. Delegates were able to benefit from various valuable networking opportunities, which allowed them to walk away not only with a whole wealth of knowledge, but armed with new connections to help build their business.

Don’t miss out in 2021. ​Click HERE​ to be the first to hear event updates.

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