The evolution of pre-workout powder for the digital generation

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages - Gaming / 	Alistair Berg
GettyImages - Gaming / Alistair Berg

Related tags gaming Cognitive function eSports Sports nutrition Sports nutrition sector pre-workout

Pre-workout powder is re-imagining and re-defining its role for the “digitally native consumer”, according to a recent webinar from Nutrition Integrated.

Shedding light on the intersection between pre-workouts, energy products, and gaming, webinar host and founder of the active nutrition consultancy Nick Morgan, explained that some products or concepts that have laid dormant in the sports nutrition sector are now primed to appeal to new audiences.

A shift towards digitally native consumers

He explained that in the ever-evolving world of sports nutrition, pre-workout powder is being re-imagined and redefined to cater specifically to “digitally native consumers”, as the generation who are growing up digitally well-versed and are in pursuit of superior nutrition for sports, active lifestyles, and overall well-being.

He explained: “It could be that some products or concepts that have parked for a while are primed to go to new audiences now.

“You only need to look at how pre-workouts have evolved into both gaming and everyday energy, by dialling ingredients up or dialling them down.

“It’s the same principles and the same fundamental concepts that underpin the products, but it’s all about the industry redefining itself.”

Morgan explained that the driving force behind the evolution and redefinition of the sports nutrition industry lies in the preferences of digitally native consumers, particularly the younger generation.

He noted that “we see a generational shift of consumers overtime,” and explained that these consumers value being energised and performing at their best every day.

Morgan stated that brands understanding the needs of needs and preferences is crucial.

Exploring the product landscape

Morgan explored the product landscape, highlighting some key offerings in the industry. 

He acknowledged original pre-workout brands known for their clear proposition and iconic status, such as Cellucor and Optimum Nutrition, yet noted that focus was shifting towards improving overall health and wellbeing, as well as providing energy.

Using the examples of brands like Holy and Sneak, he explained  that some brands have evolved classic sports nutrition products from a focus on athletic performance energy, to gaming and e-sports.

He explained that many products in the sports nutrition industry possess distinct characteristics but the common thread binding them is their ability to stimulate and energise consumers for optimal performance. 

Morgan explained that the term "readiness" aptly describes the common thread in these different products. 

Defining Energy

Morgan described how brands will offer ranges including different SKUs with unique ingredients in order to cater to a range of consumers.

With energy always the central theme, Morgan explained there are two types of energy: fuelling and priming. 

He explained that ‘fuelling’ energy refers to physical energy, gained via the consumption of macronutrients, while ‘priming’ energy focuses on stimulating and preparing mental and physical performance, via additional ingredients such as caffeine.

Discussing products aimed at the gaming audience, Morgan noted that while energy, focus, and caffeine remain common claims in gaming products, vitamins, sugar content, vegan options, and natural ingredients gain prominence in this segment. 

 “A given product will contain the same five or six major ingredients, so if you’re a supplier [of a non-core ingredient], you’re essentially fighting for the one or two spaces left in a formulation.”

He explained that the transition from sports performance to virtual performance brand lies in both the marketing and the choice of additional ingredients.

Morgan noted that while main ingredients amongst most products remain caffeine, tyrosine, choline and taurine, other ingredients such as citrulline​ (an amino acid important in the urea cycle), beta alanine​ (an amino acid involved in muscle endurance in high-intensity exercise), creatine​ (thought to help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise), and betaine​ (involved in liver function and cellular reproduction), are essentially competing for inclusion.

In terms of delivery formats, Morgan explained that powders reign as the top product in the gaming space, closely followed by snacks and meal replacements, and energy drinks.

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