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Developing sports supplements for broader wellness

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Sports nutrition consumers are reassessing their health priorities, and the industry must consider product positioning and development to meet new expectations.

Both 2020 and 2021 will be seen as years of transition in the sports nutrition marketplace.

The instability encountered in the first phases of the pandemic in 2020 resulted in category-wide sales contractions of 2% in both the U.S. and globally, according to Euromonitor International. The industry jolted back to high retail sales growth rates in 2021 consistent with pre-COVID-19 performance, reaching 10% globally and 8% in the U.S.

Industry stakeholders may suppose that this return to growth means consumers are reverting to pre-pandemic demands. However, consumers will continue to reassess their health priorities, and the industry must consider product positioning and development to meet new expectations in 2022.

An evolving view of health and fitness

Consumers’ behavioral changes are tied to the stark shifts in lifestyles seen during the pandemic. Euromonitor’s “Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey” series conducted over the course of the pandemic shows that global consumers are increasingly tying holistic factors more directly to their perceptions of health. Mental well-being, a healthy immune system and adequate sleep rank higher among consumers’ priorities than typical activities that require or correlate to sports nutrition products like fitness, endurance or physical strength. The pandemic emphasized the centrality of lifestyle factors in overall health outcomes.

Consumers returned to working out in full force last year to meet their broader health needs. According to the aforementioned Euromonitor surveys, 63% of global consumers participated in physical exercise at least once a week in 2021, and this percentage has been steadily increasing since 2019. As a result, the percentage of global consumers who were satisfied with how often they exercise jumped to 29% in 2021. Meanwhile, the percentage of global consumers that do not have time for more exercise plummeted from 31% in 2019 to 24% in 2021. In short, consumers across the world and in the U.S. are using exercise to achieve broader health goals rather than solely for muscle building or weight loss.

Positioning products to meet new demands

Sports nutrition formulators are starting to incorporate new product claims to meet a wider set of consumer needs. Traditional benefits of “high protein,” “weight loss” and “energy boosting” remain predominant in the industry. Together, these three attributes represented almost 50% of the explicit claims made on online sports nutrition product SKUs in 2020 in the U.S., according to Euromonitor’s e-commerce pricing tool Via.

Several products with additional claims have been introduced to the market since the beginning of the pandemic, pointing to the likely path forward for the industry. Product claims in sports nutrition that have seen a notable jump include immune system health, brain health, cognitive health, nootropics, digestive health and bone health.

This article was excerpted from a longer piece in the “Cutting-edge change in sports nutrition innovation” digital magazine. Click the link to read it in its entirety, including market data and insight on how sports brands can innovate across categories, ranging from immunity and brain health to digestion, sleep and stress.

Matthew Oster is the senior head of consumer health at Euromonitor International, overseeing the industry’s research and leading a team of experts in 100 markets worldwide. He provides insight on consumer trends, key markets, the competitive landscape and growth opportunities in the global consumer health space to help organizations make strategic business decisions. Oster has worked in market research since 2011, and his insights are often presented at industry conferences, via news outlets and in bylined articles. He holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

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