The sports nutrition category grows every year that passes. This year is no different. In fact, the sports nutrition market is currently seeing a 12% growth in the US in 2016. While there are supplement companies popping up all over the place, the growth isn’t coming from new entry, rather, it’s coming from existing manufacturers bringing more convenience to the marketplace and listening to consumer needs.
What’s building the sales momentum in 2016?
Sales numbers for sports nutrition in 2016 are expected to be around $5.3 billion in the United States. Protein powder is leading the charge mainly due to price point. Pricing of protein powder depending on the brand can be anywhere from $0.50-$1.00 (sometimes even more depending on the profile of the product) per serving.
One area that is helping with growth is through the grocery channels. This has brought more of the “casual” health and fitness enthusiasts into the market. Generally, what we see in grocery channels are smaller sized tubs and containers than what we are used to seeing in our local supplement retailers as well as online retailers.
The ingredient profile for many brands has also changed considerably over the course of a year or so with many brands going the route of more natural ingredients with less junk and fillers—in my opinion this is due to the education of consumers. We are now seeing better clarity and transparency on the product labels. Along the same lines, we are also seeing formulas that are less complex and have fewer overall ingredients.
Proprietary blends are also slowly starting to disappear to allow for bet
ter transparency of dosages in products. This is something many companies tried to protect years ago but with recent lawsuits floating around the industry due to tainted products or products not meeting label claims, consumers have been demanding more transparency and legitimacy when it comes to what’s actually in the product. Those who understand efficacy of ingredients were also doing the math on proprietary blended products and finding many of them to be under-dosed and over-priced.
More consumers are becoming educated about health, fitness, and nutrition, and are becoming more selective with their supplement choices. Back in the day where brands could get away with loading a product with fillers and boosting their margins is no longer the norm for today thanks to well-educated consumers and those who get the educational information into the hands of the consumers—the writers and journalists.
The change in nutritional profiles and ingredients has brought the price per serving up on many brands. Some manufacturers are trying to weather the storm and are absorbing some of those costs while others had no choice but to increase their prices. The good news for them is, we are seeing the same people still purchasing the products and showing growth in the sports nutrition market.
When it comes to convenience, the market shows consumers are still reaching for their favorite ready-to-drink (RTD) shake or protein/nutrition bar. It’s undeniable that many of these products taste great, but also come with a heftier price tag compared to their powder version counterparts.
Protein and nutrition bars are cleaning up their act
The joke of the industry has seemed to always be “protein bars”. Or as we all like to call them, “glorified candy bars”. While convenient, nutritionally they were a candy bar with some protein added to them. The ones that were healthy tasted like you were biting into a skunks rear-end, and the ones that tasted amazing were loaded with sugars. There seemed to be no happy medium.
It wasn’t until recently that the bar market changed and opened the floodgates for the sports nutrition market. We now see brands like Quest and Best Bar Ever flooding the market with healthier alternatives to the bars we have all seen and ate over the years. What’s even better is that the profile and taste of the more nutrient-dense and healthier alternatives has drastically improved.
One Hungry Hungry Hippo brand is eating up the market
A brand that truly needs no introduction is Cytosport—who is now owned by Hormel if you weren’t aware. Cytosport has sucked up 12% of the market share through their extensive product line. One line in particular from Cytosport—Muscle Milk—has taken the industry by storm. Their Muscle Milk ready-to-drink (RTD) shakes make up for a whopping 64% of the market share in 2016 for RTDs.
The brand was once heavily into the specialty channel consisting of health and fitness retailers, but has since moved into the mass market channel which has been shown to be very advantageous for them.
A demographic shift?
Brands are no longer positioning themselves as an “all-inclusive” brand when it comes to athletes and bodybuilders. Let’s face it, that doesn’t make up the majority of the people out there—you and I aren’t professional athletes or top-notch bodybuilders competing on stage for a living. Now brands are stepping back and trying to stay in certain lanes and target specific sports and demographics outside of what was considered the “norm” over the last 20+ years.
Research is actually showing that people are now engaged in yoga and outdoor activities like hiking, jogging, and mud runs than recreational sports such as soccer, baseball, and football. Many who fall into this category are calling themselves “weekend warriors”. What’s even more surprising is that many of the individuals making up this segment are women—a piece of the sports nutrition market that isn’t as saturated as other areas. This new demographic is finding the benefits of protein aren’t just for bodybuilders and professional athletes, they themselves can benefit from the many uses of protein.
Seniors are also dipping their toes in the sports nutrition pool in an effort to try and keep their muscle mass and strength so they maintain their quality of life as they age. These seniors are looking into protein powders that can also help them manage their weight and keep it under control. Pea protein sales have been soaring in the senior demographic.
Thinking outside the box and getting away from print-media advertising
Something that has helped many brands is getting out and interacting with their end-consumers. Brands are gathering information, allowing the consumers to try the product (before they buy it themselves) and going places that have never been tapped into in the past—such as the several “race” events that take place across the nation during the year.
It’s not uncommon to see brands setting up tents and booths at race events such as mud runs on weekends in hopes to gain new users to the brand. MET-Rx has sponsored some races in the past to help refuel athletes with their protein bars and electrolyte energy gummies before they were discontinued. Now Cellucor is pushing their C4 pre-workout product at races to help keep runners energy levels high so they can perform at a higher level for longer.
What the future holds?
As more people become educated on the products available on the market as well as taking control of their life by changing their behaviors and putting a conscious effort into improving their health and fitness more, innovation in the sports nutrition market will follow. Brands want to fish where the fish are. And if the fish change their taste, they will adjust and make changes.
The sports nutrition market is forever evolving. Brands who want to stay afloat need to be willing to listen to the market and make changes when necessary. When you get too set in your ways is when you fail miserably and lose your share to someone willing to evolve and take risks.