Top trends in performance and active nutrition

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Denia Fernandez
Getty | Denia Fernandez

Related tags Sports nutrition personalised nutrition Trends

FrieslandCampina Ingredients has identified the pursuit of health and wellbeing, personalised nutrition, convenience and sustainable authenticity as the four key trends that will shape the performance and active nutrition space in 2021.

The Dutch ingredients company elaborates on these trends in a new report released this month:  ‘Nutritional food; shaping the future of new ingredients​’. Consumer surveys conducted in partnership with FMCG Gurus at the end of last year, combined with external market data, have provided insights that FrieslandCampina is using to guide its own and its customers’ innovation.

“This R&D-driven project was set up to define our future dairy protein portfolio in the areas of active and performance nutrition. We wanted to make sure that what we are doing on the ‘inside’ in terms of innovation is aligned with what is going on the ‘outside’,”​ Floris Daamen, FrieslandCampina’s marketing manager for performance nutrition, told Nutraingredients.

Refocusing on immune, brain and gut health

The first trend the research highlighted is the pursuit of health and wellbeing. Whilst FrieslandCampina acknowledges that this is not a new trend, it says that COVID-19 has renewed and refocused consumers’ focus on health.

According to the FMCG Gurus surveys, globally, six out of ten consumers are more conscious about health and wellbeing as a result of COVID-19. Consequently, they are paying more attention to eating well and exercising and are looking for products that support this.

Daamen said that consumers are particularly interested in immune, brain and gut health – three health platforms that could provide a fertile ground for innovation. 

“People are more concerned about immune health as a result of the pandemic, and as science into the gut brain axis moves forward, consumers are increasingly aware of their gut health,”​ he noted.

He cited FrieslandCampina’s new Biotis prebiotic solutions as an example of how the company is innovating to keep ahead of this trend. Biotis GOS is a galacto-oligosaccharide rich ingredient, produced from lactose using a proprietary enzymatic production technology.

Female-focused personalised nutrition

The second trend that is flagged up in the report is personalised nutrition, driven by technology and science breakthroughs, information accessibility and growing consumer distrust in food health messages. This trend, according to FrieslandCampina, creates an opportunity for brand owners to target consumers with specialised, differentiated offerings to meet their personal needs.

“I think the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had here is the switch to reliance on technology. People who can’t go to the gym are using apps which allow them to sync their exercise with their nutritional intake,” ​said Daamen.

The company sees the female active nutrition market as the biggest opportunity in this area, especially in relation to protein.

“Women account for an increasing proportion of active consumers. Their priorities are switching from weight management to increasing muscle mass. Another useful insight from our research project is that, from an ingredient perspective, women tend to be more interested in convenience, clean labelling and sustainability,” ​said Daamen.

He added that FrieslandCampina’s Nutri Whey Native protein, derived directly from milk and label-friendly, fits this trend.

Convenience is king

Convenience is the third trend pinpointed in the report. Consumers are said to be “re-evaluating their snacking habits”​, with wellbeing and indulgence emerging as the two main reasons for snacking. This, according to the report, is driving demand for products that are nutritious as well as convenient.

FrieslandCampina has responded to this demand with a new suite of RTD (Ready To Drink) solutions. One concept is an açaí flavoured clear recovery protein water based on Nutri Whey Isolate Clear. The company says this beverage provides the nutritional elements necessary for recovery after exercise in an on-the-go format.

Authentic story-telling and sustainability

According to the report, clean labelling and transparency regarding ingredients will be more important than ever in 2021. Consumers increasingly expect brands to behave in a responsible and ethical manner, and are drawn to products with a genuine back story. At the same time, sustainability requirements are increasing, driven by greater consumer demand and scrutiny.

“33% of performance nutrition consumers have problems understanding nutritional labelling, which means there is an opportunity for ingredient producers and brands to improve,” ​said Daamen.

Future predictions

As health and wellness becomes a way of life for more people, boundaries between different consumer categories are becoming increasingly blurred, according to Daamen.

“In 2019, there was a clear split between performance and active nutrition but this has almost disappeared. Whilst in the past, we were focusing most of our efforts on everyday gym-goers, now the biggest potential is in the active nutrition segment where people are looking for more holistic solutions,” ​he said.

Looking forwards, Daamen predicts that healthy ageing will play an increasingly important role , presenting opportunities for brands to develop healthy nutrition solutions for the elderly population.

“Proteins will play an important part here,”​ he noted.

The challenge, however, is reaching this ‘difficult to target’ group.

“Older people do not see themselves as older people. As long as they are still healthy, most people still see themselves as much younger,”​ he said.




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