March usually comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, at least in many regions of the globe that experience four relatively equal seasons. This year, there was no magical metamorphosis from the king of the jungle to a pastural babe.
As the natural products industry, along with most of the world, hit March with a full steam of excitement for 2020, things just came to a screeching halt. March might have come in like lion, but it went out like, well, nothing. March blended into April and into May as many countries and communities locked down into quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The upside for the natural products industry was the demand for any food, beverage and household items with an “in stock” status. Brands that could overcome supply chain challenges saw a great opportunity. And as consumers stopped or limited visits to most health care providers, they turned to convenient, over-the-counter products such as dietary supplements. People were already tuning into self-care at higher rates, and this pandemic became an accelerant, especially in the areas of immune health and stress relief.
But with gyms shuttered and competitive sports indefinitely benched, it wasn’t certain if sports nutrition would share the same opportunities as other parts of the great nutrition industry.
On the retail front, giants like GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and BodyBuilding.com were struggling to compete with Amazon and others in the sports nutrition category. The pandemic didn’t make these situations any easier. GNC escaped disaster by reaching an agreement with its lenders to push out the due date for certain debts to August; however, if the COVID-19 crisis continues to dog its performance, a failure to meet new terms could bring the troubles slamming back. During the quarantine, BodyBuilding.com was sold again, this time from short-term owner Expedia Group to The Najafi Companies, a private equity firm based in Phoenix. In a recent video, industry consultant Joshua Schall explained the online sports nutrition retailer and publisher wasn’t a good fit for the well-known travel company, and the hard impact of COVID-19 on travel made divestiture more pressing.
This article was excerpted from a more in-depth market analysis appearing in the Sports Nutrition: Innovation - Breakthroughs and trends – digital magazine. Click the link to read it, as well as other articles on the segment.