The sports nutrition industry has steadily gained popularity over the last few years due to the everyday consumer looking for better-for-you options and an overall healthier lifestyle. In 2014, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Chicago, identified sports nutrition as one of the top 10 functional food trends. Moreover, the sports beverage sector accumulated $7.4 billion in retail sales in 2013, according to data from Rockville, Maryland-based Packaged Facts.
April’s digital magazine, Sports Nutrition Drinks: Flavors and Trends, explores the challenges product developers face when formulating and reformulating sports drinks including: the shift away from sugar, flavor trends, protein challenges, the move to natural and more.
According to Packaged Facts, 36 percent of all U.S. adults consume sports drinks. Nearly 75 percent of children age 6 to 11 years and 71 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 consume sports drinks. Growing consumer awareness of sugar intake is leading consumers away from the typical sugary sports drinks and steering them in the direction of formulations perceived as more natural. High-intensity sweeteners such as sucralose and acesulfame are still popular and recognizable to consumers’ palates but sports drinks made with prebiotic fibers, erythritol, stevia and monk fruit are not far behind.
Companies are conscious about how beverages sweetened with caloric sweeteners appear on labels and are therefore switching to more natural caloric sweeteners such as brown rice syrup, agave and cane sugar.
The move to natural is a recent trend that will likely not be going away anytime soon. Packaged Facts predicts vegan, fair trade and sustainability will be emerging trends in sports drinks. Consumers are already looking for drinks made without pesticides, artificial colors, flavors and additives. The demands also continue with requests for more GMO-free, raw, gluten-free, organic, kosher and allergen-free beverages.
According to Marie Spano’s article, “Sports Nutrition Beverages: A Focus on Flavors," another trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down is plant-based proteins, including pea, hemp, rice, soy and newcomer sacha inchi, mostly due to the increased price of whey protein. Plant-based proteins can be more difficult for formulators to incorporate because of their earthy flavors that can overwhelm a beverage. This often results in companies using flavors that complement the protein to mask the earthiness.
According to a report from Persistence Market Research, New York, the market for sports nutrition is expanding from North America toward developing markets of Europe and Asia Pacific. And, as interest in global sporting events and increased global participation expand, so will the development of sports nutrition beverages.