Trends in Sports Nutrition
(…and how to know which one to select for your brand)

By Maria Pavlidou, senior strategy consultant and partner at the HMT.

With summer already in full swing on many parts of the world, our team has been enjoying a lot of time outdoors and we this got us talking about our favorite spots. Since we are marketing geeks, inevitably this led to another discussion about what do other people think of sports, which sports nutrition products is everyone taking, what is hot in sports nutrition right now and what will be hot tomorrow? And that’s how a coffee break chat, became a research project with everyone hunting for the latest trends. I am here to report our findings but also explain how to select the one for your brand (I know it’s a classic, but it is true: one size does NOT fit all). If you want to cheat, you can scroll down to the check list (yes, of course there is a checklist). Otherwise, keep reading. 

The shift: from purely physical to physical and mental benefits – Meet Tom

The first thing we notice is that there is an obvious shift: When you close your eyes and think of a typical sports nutrition product, I bet you see these bulky powders that have a clear muscle benefit. However, this is changing: there is now more awareness of the mental aspect of physical exercise. Let’s take Tom for example:  Tom works out at the gym. He focuses on his physical performance and strength. To support and grow his muscles he usually makes a vanilla whey powder protein shake. Unfortunately, Tom has noticed he often feels tired and unmotivated before going to the gym and after a high intensity session he might feel physically and mentally burnt out. Tom realizes that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that having a clear and strong mind can support his athletic performance. A good recovery routine is also just as important. Tom will take a rest and muscle repair drink formula before bed so he’s ready for tomorrow’s training.

From CBD to microbiome modulators

The science of sports nutrition has shifted from a purely physical health focus to overall health, highlighting mental well-being.  As emphasised by Nutrition insight referring to the Olympics, “mental health is a topic that is now being more and more communicated by athletes and is no longer hidden as it was before.” The key success factors to win any competition are not only the strength, but also a clear-mind with sharp focus, and less anxiety. There are a number of active ingredients used in sports nutrition from CBD to microbiome modulators as innovative elements to enhance the performance and mental health for both active lifestyle consumers as well as professional athletes. The microbiome in sports nutrition is one the most innovative areas to keep the eyes on as we are expecting a new wave of sports F&B and supplements, especially based on personalised gut microbiota. Science shows probiotics have the potential to help support athletic performance, endurance, recovery and alleviating stress. There is more research being conducted into how the gut microbiome connects to boost the performance. These products are called “athlete-derived probiotics”.

Peak performance 

According to Nutritional Outlook magazine, more than 20% of consumers seek performance products that offer added value, such as anti-inflammatory effects or cognitive and eye health support. Full performance for sportsmen these days is about much more than just physical strength during the activity.

 

Clear focus is the winner

Having clarity and a sharp focus aids athletes or even amateurs to reach the best performance possible. Ingredients in this category which actively function as stress reduction or cognitive support, as well as vision acuity, allow consumers to accelerate their cognitive capability to the sharpness. Lumina Intelligence research, which analyses the top-ranking sports nutrition products online across 20 global markets, found that 24% of offerings claimed to improve energy, and 6% claimed to improve focus on labelling and packaging.

All about better recovery

Efficient recovery process is one of the key pillars of sports nutrition. Knowing the right nutrition and timing for a particular sport is as important as the method to complete the game. In professionals as well as amateurs, a good recovery process is crucial in order to stay on top of the game and it is more and more often being approached by consumers in a holistic way. Clean, natural ingredients and  physical and mental rest are the basics of a good (self-care)

 

Checklist: How to select the right trend for your brand

(as promised)

1. Know your market

For each of the trend expressions, what is the awareness in your market? It can vary from high, something everyone knows, to something very niche that only people with specific lifestyles/ specific concerns know and would be interested it. Let’s take the example of the microbiome in sports nutrition. It’s a very innovative and up and coming concept. It could be relevant for mature markets such as the UK or the US where there is a big variety of products already and you need something new to differentiate. But it might be premature to launch it in more a more traditional market where awareness is non- existent, and you would be limited cornered to a niche.

2. Know your consumer

Having said that, it also depends a lot on the type of consumer you want to go for: You can target the mass market or the lifestyle (trendy!) consumer, but you need to be conscious about it and select the right message that will be attractive to each target group. Many of the trends in this article still have low awareness in the mass market and are more relevant for the lifestyle consumers. This is something to be aware of when building your strategy and choosing a trend. Which market but also which audience in your selected market

3. Choose your story

Think about the story you want to tell and choose the right consumer narrative. Do you want to appeal to a consumer’s emotions? Or connect them with their roots and traditions? Or maybe build a ritual and an experience and not just a product? All valid options but you need to be clear about it to choose the one that best resonates in your market and audience.   

If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out and drop me a note at maria@thehmt.com and we can schedule an one hour free session to go through any brand challenge you might have. And if you like what you just read, sign up to our newsletter for more!