Esports industry experts explore the evolving market of gaming nutrition

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags eSports Cognitive health Cognitive function Brain health gaming Sports nutrition nootropics

In a panel discussion hosted by NutraIngredients yesterday (June 29), industry experts delved into the unique needs and preferences of esports athletes and the evolving consumer demographics within the category.

The panel included: Jason Chung, director and clinical assistant professor of esports and gaming initiative at NYU; Gary Kleinman, co-founder of Skinz, the health and wellness supplement company for gamers; Holden MacRae, co-founder and chief science officer of the esports performance app FITGMR; and Jonathan Smed, esport psychologist, and performance coach. 

Casual vs professional gamers

Chung began the panel by highlighting that the demographic interested in gaming is shifting toward a more balanced gender distribution and expanding to include older individuals who grew up with competitive video gaming.

While amateur gamers may encompass a wide age range, the panel acknowledged that those playing at a highly competitive level tend to be younger, much like in most sports. 

Kleinman acknowledged that while the adoption of healthy practices has been slow, professional esports teams have shown a growing interest in nutrition.

He explained that these teams now employ nutritionists and sports performance experts who prioritise science-backed health strategies.

The role of brand sponsorships emerged as a significant factor in shaping the market. As Chung pointed out, brand sponsorships often dictate the revenue streams for teams. 

He did note however that while promoting healthy products may not be the primary concern for sponsors, there is a positive trend toward healthier choices in the esports industry.

The ageing or maturing of gamers was also highlighted as a catalyst for change. As older gamers pass on their early adoption of good health and nutrition practices, younger generations are likely to inherit these habits, leading to a positive shift in the market.

Physical and cognitive demands

Macrae emphasised the importance of considering both the physical and cognitive demands specific to esports.

Explaining the needs of esports athletes, Macrae stated: “I think what's probably most important is the ability to improve brain blood flow as well as maintain fuel supply.”

Mentioning the significance of B vitamins for maintaining nerve cell health and brain blood flow, he stressed the need for products that support cognitive flexibility, improve decision-making processes, and address mental fatigue, while also being mindful of nutritional aspects to prevent metabolic dysregulation and excessive sugar and caffeine intake, particularly among younger gamers.

He also highlighted the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acid DHA and ketone esters for cognitive performance, while Kleinman emphasised the benefits of citicoline for brain health, memory, attention, and focus.

The panel agreed that the market's transformation is gradual, as consumer demands and preferences slowly align with the availability of suitable products.

Marketing

From a marketing perspective, Smed highlighted the challenge of marketing nutritional value to both esports athletes and casual gamers, as the two groups have different priorities and interests.

When asked about the possibility of a mass-market product appealing to the 20 to 40 age bracket in the esports community, the panel acknowledged the difficulty of creating a catch-all product due to the diversity of games and audiences within esports.

Responsibility and education 

Kleinman emphasised the significance of education in the esports industry, highlighting the need to educate gamers about the efficacy of ingredients and the potential long-term impacts of ingredients.

Macrae agreed, stating: “Of the athletes we've seen, particularly in younger gamers, due to higher processed food intake together with consuming products that are very high in glucose, we start to see type 2 diabetes appearing in 18, 19 and 20-year-olds, which is very disturbing. 

“You need to be focusing specifically on the cognitive side, but not to the detriment of the physical side.”

He also advocated for the use of ingredients backed by clinical studies, such as nootropics that enhance brain health, attention, memory, and focus.

To watch the full webinar, click here​. 

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