Playing the FieldThe Growing Market for Sports Nutrition

Alissa Marrapodi

February 22, 2010

14 Min Read
Playing the FieldThe Growing Market for Sports Nutrition

The sports nutrition market saw quite a bit of action in the last couple years. Between U.S. Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy testing positive for the stimulant clenbuterol, which she blamed on the dietary supplement she was taking, to Greek Olympic athlete Fani Halkia, who also came up dirty on her drug test, suggesting the vitamin supplements she took were the possible culprits, the sports nutrition industry is a busy market.
The sports nutrition and weight-loss category is one of the biggest and fastest growing categories according to Nutrition Business Journal, which recently reported the category grew at 7.6 percent to $2.7 billion in sales for 2008, said Scott Steil, president, Nutra Bridge. Given the upward shift in both health education and individual responsibility for maintaining ones own health, consumers have clearly made living a healthy, active lifestyle a priority. The robust growth in the sports nutrition market proves supplements are a core part of such a commitment.
NMIs 2009 Health & Wellness Trends Database reported 22 percent of consumers indicated they use sports nutrition products (amino acids, creatine, protein powders, sports hydration drinks, sports nutrition bars and sports nutrition supplements).
According to Mintel, the sports and energy drink segment gained 164 percent in sales during 2002 to 2007, due in part to the launch of numerous line extensions from Gatorade in the sports drinks sub-segment.
And this market isnt just geared toward committed athletes anymore; its playing field stretches larger, including those who lead an active lifestyle. For years, sports nutrition products were designed for hard-core athletes and body builders, said Bob Green, president, Nutratech. The industry was all about bulking up, bodybuilding and performance enhancement; but today, sports nutrition products are attracting a much broader, mass audience. Were now dealing with a new generation of consumers who have grown up knowing an active lifestyle has positive, long-term implications for health, fitness, weight management and longevity.
FDA is becoming a major player, as it focuses its enforcement efforts toward sports nutrition. With recent GMPs (good manufacturing practices) put in place, the process from which a supplement is created to when it hits the shelves has changed, and is demanding a closer look and stricter guidelines. Many companies are stuffing their dietary supplements with FDA-approved drugs, or worse, steroids aiming to beef up the consumer, which makes the supplement an illegal drug and not a dietary supplement. In July 2009, FDA issued a warning, stating it found several products marketed as bodybuilding supplements with ingredients that are anabolic steroid alternatives and/or are steroid-like, but which contain synthetic, designer steroid compounds. From a supplier point of view, the aftermath of the recent ingredient scandals involving sub-standard suppliers, activists, members of Congress and FDA are demanding action to prevent poor-quality ingredients reaching the consumer, said Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager North America, Lipid Nutrition. From an overall industry perspective, the supply chain needs can be better guarded with ongoing GMP certifications and quality assurance education.

Abhijit Bhattacharya, chief operating officer, OmniActive Health Technologies, agreed that the supply chain needs closer scrutiny. Adulteration, mislabeling, sub-optimal levels or deliberate spiking of supplements with inappropriate or unauthorized ingredients are some of the undesirable practices of a few unscrupulous suppliers, he said. With the new GMPs coming into force, responsible suppliers and formulators will be able to cooperate in assuring each other and the end consumers that the products entering the market contain the right level of ingredients, and the overall understanding of food safety and claim substantiation will ensure that responsible manufacturers following accredited safety certifications such as ISO-22000 food safety management systems and well-documented product literature will stand a greater chance of success.
In addition to adulteration, bogus and unsubstantiated product claims have become an issue. These claims can potentially scare away consumers, undermine the dietary supplement industry as a whole, as well as cause large waves in the sports nutrition pool. Product claims are continually under scrutiny as is product safety, Steil said. The key to regaining consumer trust and ensuring future success in the sports nutrition arena is found in building a partnership between ingredient suppliers, manufacturers, marketing companies and retailers. Suppliers need to invest significant resources in science and perform well-designed clinical studies in North America. Manufacturers need to use ingredients that have a proven track record. Marketers need to set realistic consumer expectations and then deliver a product that meets or exceeds them.
Bhattacharya added, It is important to look for the science and the data underlying claims for a product and its active ingredients. And he couldnt be more right.

The Quarterbacks of Sports Nutrition

Endurance. Strength. Energy. Recovery. Fundamentals for athletes and the actives alike and supplementation can help ensure these fundamentals are in place. Consumers know what they want, according to Amy Alderton, Ph.D., manager, research & development, Watson Inc., as Watson sees requests for specific ingredients due to consumer awareness of beneficial ingredients. We always see requests for the variety of B vitamins which are critical to metabolism, she said. Choline is popular and important in fat metabolism. Chromium is becoming more popular as it helps regulate insulin levels, speeds metabolism and helps burn fat. Zinc is a key component in metabolic enzymes. We also see inositol and guarana requested. Inositol plays a role in fat metabolism along with choline, while guarana contains caffeine which provides energy.
Keeping a lean and fit figure is the goal of many, and by heating things up through thermogenic supplements that stimulate the bodys burning of fat, they are able to augment this goal. What better way to speed things up than with a citrus fruit extract of bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), which many formulators turned to when ephedra (Ma huang) was taken off the market.
Thermogenics are cornerstone ingredients in sports nutrition products, not only because thermogenesis is the only proven method of leaning up and trimming down for optimal performance and physical fitness, but also because they best address consumers major concerns: supporting overall health, improving athletic performance, managing weight, increasing energy, etc., Green said. One study showed subjects supplementing with Nutratechs patented thermogenic ingredient, Advantra Z®, caffeine and St. Johns wort lost significantly more body weight and fat than those in the placebo or control group.1 Researchers said the combination was, Safe and effective when combined with mild caloric restriction and exercise for promoting both body-weight and fat loss in healthy overweight adults. Its also been shown to increased energy expenditures up to 29 percent in certain populations,2 and caused a measurable increase in the resting metabolic rate (RMR) in obese subjects in an unpublished study.3
Another thermogenic ingredient that stepped in after the ephedra ban was 7-Keto. 7-Keto is naturally found in our bodies, but declines dramatically with age, Steil said. Typically, a person loses about 50 percent of their endogenous 7-Keto levels by age 40. This results in our bodies inability to burn fat like it used to when we were younger.
Obese subjects taking 7-Keto® (from NutraBridge) experienced 3.1 times the rate of change in body fat than the placebo group.4 7-Keto, combined with exercise and a reduced calorie diet, reduced more body weight and fat than without the supplement. Its also been shown to increase RMR and thermogenesis above basal levels with the possibility of benefiting obese individuals with impaired energy expenditure, in combination with calcium citrate, green tea extract, ascorbic acid, chromium nicotinate and cholecalciferol (HUM5007).5 Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid mainly found in dairy products and meat is marketed in the sports nutrition sector as a way to increase lean mass and reduced fat mass. CLA is experiencing consistent and stable demand from sport nutrition consumers, Luchsinger said. Athletes will benefit in the areas of weight management and body composition, as several short-term studies have demonstrated CLA can positively affect body composition and has a beneficial effect on lean muscle mass. A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported 3.2 g/d of CLA produced a significant, but modest loss in body fat.6 CLA can not only boost the nutritional value of a weight-management bar, it can replace fat. Clarinol® CLA can be used to replace existing fat in bars without altering the formulation to any great extent, Luchsinger added. The triglyceride oil and powder forms of Clarinol CLA have a clean taste, meaning it will not affect the flavor profile of the end-product in food applications.
Cognis also markets CLA (Tonalin® CLA) to fitness enthusiasts. Everyonefrom athletes to bodybuilders and to people who just want to keep healthy and fitcan benefit from supplementing a healthy diet and exercise with CLA, said Sharrann Simmons, senior marketing manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health. Research has shown Tonalins ability to reduce body fat and body weight, in addition to increasing lean tissue mass.7,8
And another ingredient thats spicing things up is capsicum from red peppers. When ingested, capsaicinoids from hot red peppers are believed to increase energy expenditure and alter energy substrate utilization at rest and during exercise, Bhattacharya said. OmniActives Capsimax Plus Blend, a formulation combining the calorie-burning capacity of hot red peppers with additional thermogenic agents, has been shown to burn 278 more calories before, during and after exercise as compared to a placebo, according to an unpublished study.

Creatinol O-phosphate (COP) and betaine anhydrous are two hot ingredients in the sports nutrition arena, said Bruce Liu, Ph.D., MBA, technical director, Tiancheng International Inc. COP is often used as a muscle and strength-enhancing ingredient. Betaine, a molecule known for a long time, also became hot due to recent publications of research supporting its benefits in improving athletic performance.      
And, as much as fitness gurus need their energy and endurance, they also need protection and prevention against injuries, as well as optimized blood flow. Many systems in the body are working and many chemical reactions take place during exercise. Pycnogenol®, French maritime pine bark extract, has been shown to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow9 and enhance blood microcirculation,10,11 as well as alleviate cramping and muscular pain.12
Nutra Bridge introduced MicroLactin, a milk protein concentrate for joint care and sport nutrition recovery. Specific to the use in joint care, clinical studies have shown MicroLactin functions as an anti-inflammatory product, providing fast relief of joint pain13, Steil said. In fact, MicroLactin works three times faster than glucosamine. As for the use in sports recovery, an unpublished study found MicroLactin can help reduce DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) or post-workout muscle soreness.



Athletes want their supplements to be convenient, accessible and portable. Their demanding schedules require innovative applications, making it effortless to supplement their diets and schedules. As consumers continue to learn about which ingredients can truly help them meet their fitness and sports goals, the market responds by offering a continual stream of new delivery systems in order to utilize these ingredients, said Kevin Owen Ph.D., Nafta head of technical marketing and scientific affairs, LONZA. There is a direct functional relationship between the science that supports the products, and the continual development and launch of new delivery systems to use these products.
New options such as energy shots are stocking grocery shelves, but oldies such as beverages, bars and powders are advancing and becoming more prominent in the sports nutrition arena. Theres no question that energy shots and drinks are one of the biggest trends in sports nutrition, Green said. This growing market of active lifestyle enthusiasts need and want more energynot just for their workouts, but also to help them get through their busy days. Green noted Convenience Store News reported sales of energy shots doubled in 2009. This is in spite of the fact that were in the middle of a recession. And a key sub-trend is the emerging emphasis on sports nutrition ingredientsespecially thermogenic componentsin both energy drinks and shots, he said.
Mintel reported in its June 2008 report an estimated total market size for ready-to drink (RTD) non-carbonated beverages at $40,993 million. However, in light of recent declining economic conditions, Mintel revised its estimates for RTD non-carbonated beverages with a growth of just 2.7 percent in 2008, compared to the previously published comparatively optimistic 2008 growth rate of 6.2 percent. Mintel noted, The decline in RTD beverages is likely to be propelled by slower than expected growth in sports and energy drinks segment, where consumers are likely to retract demand for high-price energy drinks. Steil found the three most popular delivery methods are capsules/tablets, powders and beverages. There have been a few newer technologies that have evolved, such as creams, strips and effervescent or quick dissolve tablets, but they have not penetrated the market to any noticeable degree, he said.
 In addition to the basic capsules and tablets, drink sticks have become very popular to deliver nutrients for sports nutrition, Simmons said. The drink sticks are very convenient and can also help the athlete to stay hydrated during sporting events.
And companies such as Watson Inc. provide several fortification premixes for sports drinks, fortified waters and add-to-water type powdered beverages, as well as functional bars. We see consumers wanting more than just good taste from their food, they also want functionality, Alderton said. So if they are going to reach for a beverage or bar anyway, consumers are now turning toward beverages or bars that provide taste and additional nutrients such as electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, protein, active ingredients. In effect, the food serves a dual purpose. 
Adhering to GMPs, avoiding unsubstantiated label claims, implementing an effective system for avoiding adulterated products and product innovation all ensure the quality and success of the sports nutrition market. Sports nutrition is constantly evolving and the immediate future will be no different. Luchsinger said.
With peoples emphasis of quality of living and publication of reliable research, sports nutrition will become mainstream in the future, Liu said. There will be more variety of new items coming out the market since the competition is crucial and every player tries to come up new stuff; market will be more mature, advance and stable.

References on the next page...

Editors Note: INSIDERs Market Insight articles designed to give a broad overview of marketing and sales trends, and select hot ingredients, in a particular category.



References for Sports Nutrition Market

   1.       Colker CM et al. Effects of Citrus aurantium extract, caffeine and St. John's wort on body fat loss, lipid levels and mood states in overweight healthy adults. Curr Ther Res. 1999;60(3):145-53

   2.       Gougeon  et al. Increase in the Thermic Effect of Food by Adrenergic Amines Extracted from Citrus Aurantium, Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1187-94  

   3.       Pathak et al. Thermic Effect of Citrus Aurantium in Obese Subjects 1999

   4.       Kalmann DS et al. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study of 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone in healthy overweight adults. Curr Ther Res. 2000;61(7):435-42

   5.       Zenk JL, Frestedt JL, Kuskowski MA HUM5007, a novel combination of thermogenic compounds, and 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone: each increases the resting metabolic rate of overweight adults. J Nutr Biochem. 2007;18(9):629-34

   6.     Whigham LD et al., Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass:  a meta-analysis in humans.Am J Clin Nutr. 2007. 85(5):1203-11.

  1. Thom, E., Wadstein, J., and Gudmundsen O.: Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat in healthy exercising humans. J Int Med Res. 2001; 29, 392-396.

  2. Pinkoski, C.; Chilibeck, P.D.; Candow, D.G.; Esliger, D.; Ewaschuk, J.B.; Facci, M.; Farthing, J.P. and Zello, G.A. 2006: The effects of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation during resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 38/2: 339-348

  3. Fitzpatrick DF et al. Endothelium-dependent vascular effects of Pycnogenol® J Cardiovas Pharmacol 32: 509-515, 1998.

  4. Wang S et al. The effect of Pycnogenol® on the microcirculation, platelet function and ischemic myocardium in patients with coronary artery diseases Eur Bull Drug Res 7(2): 19-25, 1999.

  5. Kohama T. Clinical applications of Pycnogenol® in Japan Prog Med 24: 1503-1510, 2004.

  6.  Vinciguerra G et al. Cramps and muscular pain: prevention with Pycnogenol® in normal subjects, venous patients, athletes, claudicants and in diabetic microangiopathy Angiology 57: 331-339, 2006.

  7. John L. Zenk, MD et al. The Effects of Milk Protein Concentrate on the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in adults: An Exploratory, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial Current Therapeutic Research 2002;63(7)

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