HMT report reveals sports nutrition innovation opportunities

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Antonio Solano
Getty | Antonio Solano

Related tags Sports nutrition Consumer attitudes Consumer trends Probiotics microbiome

Brand positioning experts at HMT (Healthy Marketing Team) have revealed a new report detailing the secrets for successful innovation within sports nutrition.

The report outlines four key categories of 'stakeholder' that brands can target - technology, lifestyle, early mass, and late mass - with specific trends driving purchases for each of those consumer groups.

1) The technology stakeholder

This category includes the professional athlete - consumers that can be won over with scientific proof to substantiate health claims.

Trend 1: Mental Health

The report notes that in the past, sports nutrition for professional athletes was more or less solely focused on optimal macro and micronutrient supply, digestion, and compensation for sport induced physical stress but recent developments have highlighted the importance of new areas such as cognitive health, focus, and reduction of anxiety in pro-athletes.

The report notes: "Since the Olympics in Tokyo, mental health of athletes has gained more and more attention, as several athletes opened up about mental health issues and their impact during competition. The 2022 Olympic winter games in Beijing again provided a stage for the topic of mental health in athletes. Jamie Anderson, a professional snowboarder, described incidents of her falling during competition as a result of mental breakdowns and intense pressure, which she just could not endure."

The report lists up-and-coming ingredients to use in products for this audience. It states Acetyl L Carnitine HCL is popular for its neuroprotective effects and its ability to boost energy status in the brain. CDP-Choline/Alpha GPC is also listed as popular for increasing mental performance, learning, memory and physical performance.

Mind Lab Pro

On the market

Mind Lab Pro v4.0 by Opti-Nutra Europe Ltd, from the US, is an holistic nootropic with important B Vitamins for peak neural function. It also includes CDP-Choline (citicoline) for improving awareness.

Bulk nootropic

And from Bulk in the UK, Complete Nootropic is a complete mix of nootropics containing Acyl L-Carnitine, CDP-choline (citicoline), herbal extracts, and important B vitamins. This supplement claims to be the most powerful multi-ingredient nootropic formula on the market

Trend 2: Discipline-specific nutrition

The report notes that during the pandemic, the role of endurance sports increased, as endurance sports were one of the few options that people had at their disposal in order to be physically active. As such, the sports nutrition market increasingly focuses on endurance activities and outdoor sports rather than only weightlifting and gym training. Esports was another sub-category that started to expand and gain a closer focus and has continued to do so.

The report lists lutein, for eye health of gamers, and beta-alanine to buffer lactic acid production and delay exhaustion, as two up-and-coming ingredients within this trend.

Maurten gel 100

On the market

GEL 100 by Maurten, in Sweden, is a hydrogel with a "special ratio" of multiple carbohydrates (fructose and glucose) incorporated in a biopolymer matrix to maximize carbohydrate uptake during exercise and provide maximal gastrointestinal tolerance. 

2) The Lifestyle Stakeholder

These could be consumers such as fitness influencers who like to present themselves as progressive and in peak health or equally it includes consumers that the report refers to as ‘gym bros’. These are very aspirational amateur athletes who workout and train hard with a strict regimen.

This category of consumers is heavily influenced by the friends with whom they workout. HMT says they can be won-over with trending ingredients and brands with a strong ethos and backstory.

Trend 1: Stress reduction, inner balance, recovery, sleep

With the recent rise in health consciousness due to the COVID pandemic, especially health-conscious customers seek nutrition in ingredients that help to cope with increased physical and mental stress, mood stabilisation, and cognitive health.

According to the report, fitness influencers are especially prone toward whole natural ingredients such as herbs to mushrooms that are perceived as clean. But also, in the group of gym bros, herbal full-spectrum supplements experience more acceptance if they promise a payoff in performance.

ESN Ashwa Pro

According to the report, relevant ingredients enjoying growing consumer interest are ashwagandha, CBD, and Hericium erinaceus​.

On the market:

ESN Ashwa Pro by Fitmart GmbH offers capsules with branded Ashwagandha extract, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 counteract stress and improve mental performance, as well as sleep

3) Early mass market adopters

This consumers group includes recreational sportspeople who aspire to having an active life, with enough exercise to keep healthy. They like to achieve their goal in a relaxed way, without strict regimens or deadlines. They enjoy nutritionally balanced food and easy-to-follow advice meaning they can be won over with well-known ingredients and simple comparisons.

Trend: Holistic, multi-purpose food

"As the sports nutrition market has moved into the mainstream, its reach has gone beyond performance and now takes a more holistic approach to health," ​the report explains, "many products therefore include vitamins, fibers, greens and fruit powders, minerals, and also probiotics, resembling real (whole) food more closely. These supplements are meant to serve multiple purposes and address the health concerns of the customers."

Some popular ingredients within this market include vitamin complexes, antioxidants, minerals and pre- and probiotics.

MyProtein Breakfast smoothie

On the market:

In the UK, Breakfast Smoothie by Myprotein is a powder with whey protein concentrate, oligosaccharides for gut health, chromium, and avocado oil powder for a "perfect balance of macronutrients". 

4) Late mass market adopters

This final consumer group includes those who embrace low-intensity physical exercise, like walking their dog or strolling with friends. The main drivers for this group centre around staying healthy and enjoying tasty food an drink.

The key trends within this consumer group are indulgence and simple functional claims.

This is where the high-protein low-sugar protein bar comes into play. These consumer don’t need to see health claims as they aren’t being offered anything new. They know the products they like and the reasons for buying them. They can only be won over with great taste, high value and convenience.

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