Proteins have always benefited from their healthy image amongst consumers; but, historically, protein supplementation was purely associated with muscle building. However, this perception is beginning to change among U.S. consumers, who are increasingly embracing the scientific evidence that demonstrates the diverse role of proteins in achieving optimal health. This is apparent from the expanding marketplace for proteins, which is no longer restricted to muscle building or to people with an active lifestyle. In 2013, 16 percent of consumers had used a sports nutrition product of some sort in the past 12 months, and protein bars were used by more than half of sports nutrition product users, primarily for meal replacement applications. Thus, the connotation of protein powders being just muscle milk is fading away.
Driving the demand for ingredients, the U.S. retail market for sports nutrition products is a high-value market, and therefore caters to a much more aware and demanding consumer base. Evaluated at approximately USD $6.3 billion in 2014, the retail market is expected to witness continued growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 percent to 5 percent through 2020. The fast-growing, mass-market sales channel continued to be the main means of distributing sports nutrition products in the United States (55 percent of sales), but considerable growth has been experienced in other specialized sales channels, such as the Internet, fitness centers and specialty vitamin retailer sales channels, which are critical for enhancing consumer awareness of the benefits of sports nutrition products. Consequently, the total U.S. sports nutrition ingredients market is expected to grow at similar rates as the retail market during the forecast period, and it will surpass $2 billion in annual ingredient market sales by 2020. Dairy protein ingredients account for the largest market segment at 56 percent of market value, but soy and other vegetable-based protein ingredients are starting to make significant headway into the market.
The sports nutrition ingredients market is being driven by several key growth factors. These growth factors include:
However, market participants in the U.S. sports nutrition ingredients market are also expected to face a significant industry challenge over the next five to 10 years, and the impact of this challenge on the market will depend on a given ingredient’s feed stock. For example, the functional properties of milk make it difficult to be substituted with vegetarian alternatives in many sports nutrition applications due to ease of digestibility and taste profile concerns. Yet this has not hindered the growth of plant-based protein ingredients in this space, especially for soy protein, microalgae proteins and other vegetable-based proteins.
As the demand for enhanced performance and increasing consumer awareness continue to drive the sports nutrition ingredients market, protein ingredient suppliers stand poised to capitalize on the trend purely by virtue of their existing capabilities and traditional understanding of this segment of the health food market. However, current and potential sports nutrition ingredient suppliers ought to consider the following to accelerate market growth:
In summary, with increasing awareness and demand for sports nutrition products, and consequently, value-added protein ingredients, the sports nutrition ingredients market is clearly transforming from its “muscle milk and protein shake" niche. The market now appeals to the typical food and beverage consumer; therefore, consumption of protein ingredient-fortified products will likely become the norm. Ingredient companies that understand this evolutionary projector and act now will enjoy market leadership in the years to come.
Christopher Shanahan, food and agriculture global program manager, Frost & Sullivan, assists and advises companies with impartial insight into the food ingredient and chemical industries. Shanahan has more than 10 years of experience covering a broad range of subjects, including functional food ingredient markets and econometric-based market analysis.