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Supplement Perspectives

The Sports Supplements Market: An Analytical Interlude

<p>NMI&rsquo;s Diane Ray gives us a mile-high view of a market whose demographics have shifted from muscle man to everyman.</p>

It’s good for readers to know the market they’re competing in. Celeste Sepessy did a nice job examining the various niches for sports nutrition supplements a few weeks back. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give a call to Diane Ray, vice president, strategic innovation, at NMI.

Here were some of her key observations during our Tuesday morning conversation as well as some information she later sent my way.  

--Sports nutrition used to be the domain of hardcore, professional athletes. More products, Ray says, are expanding into “casual and everyday athletes who still want goal-oriented athletic performance but on a more reasonable playing field.”

--“Sports supplements were once defined by muscle building: no more,” Ray adds. “Muscle maintenance and fitness are now part of the every-man (and woman) equation. Nutrition Business Journal reports 2011 sports nutrition dollars 67 percent of dollar sales coming from the heavy/regular consumers at 4 percent of the population. Performance athletes, I call these the professionals, are less than 5 percent of sales according to NBJ.”

 --“The most logical segment for sports nutrition supplement growth is Baby Boomers simply due to their numbers and their strong health-awareness,” Ray says. “They want to stay physically fit, active, mobile, and powerful.”

 --“In short, sports nutrition products help reinforce their vitality,” she continues. “There’s a dip in the numbers of Generation X in the population, but Baby Boom backlash—the high numbers of Generation Y/Millennials in the population—are set up to keep the industry growing.

 “They’re getting the fitness message much earlier, much younger, so they’re more likely to maintain a healthier lifestyle,,” she adds. “Though you see more muscle-building/strength usage among the younger set, overall performance is the driver. Healthy performance, not just hyped up on steroids performance, is the trend.”

--Based on U.S. Census data, Millennials are whom manufacturers need to pay the most attention to. At 83 million strong, they represent the largest generation of young people in American history.

 --But they’re not the group that is exercising the most frequently. That would be the Matures.

--According to NMI, the emphasis on meal replacement is driven by two different results, both based on weight management: weight management for performance and fitness and weight loss for appearance and health.

--Meanwhile when it comes to sports performance, customers are looking for supplements to help with general health/energy/vitality or stamina/recovery/athletic process. This is according to NMI’s 2013 Health and Wellness Trends Study.

 --When it comes to sports supplements, according to NMI, “performance delivered” tops the hierarchy of benefits customers looking for. At the bottom: quality/value/safety of the ingredients.

--Ray says that sports supplements are affected by outside factors. The emerging trend of body acceptance poses an obstacle. Obesity and its associated medical and health burdens may steer people toward these supplements.

And there’s this: Americans talk a good game about fitness but don’t always follow through. So whether the popularity in sports supplements is the preface to a major trend or just a brief uptick, Ray says, is hard to gauge.  

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