The foodification of sports nutrition: exciting possibilities for product diversification

21-Jul-2022

The sports nutrition market is booming and has experienced exceptional growth since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Euromonitor, this rapid expansion is evidenced by the fact that the 2019 market was valued at €19.2 billion and is now projected to reach €43 billion by 2026. Laure Egoumenides, Product Manager at Robertet, takes up the story

North America accounts for 62% of sports nutrition revenue, followed by Asia-Pacific and Europe, representing 14% respectively. In Europe, the leading country in this sector is the UK, followed by Germany and France. The continent has also seen a 23% increase in the number of fitness centres in just 2 years.

Factors driving growth in the sports nutrition market are diverse and multifaceted.

  • Awareness of health issues: in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have realised that regular activity is essential for their health
  • The rise of fitness: whether at home or at a club, the pursuit of fitness has increased dramatically; in Europe, for example, nearly 65 million people go to gyms
  • The holistic management of athletes: the adaptation of nutrition to sports activities has become more widespread
  • The multiplication of distribution channels: sports nutrition products can be found in gyms, pharmacies, supermarkets and are even available via e-commerce channels
  • Influencers who have become brand prescribers: many lifestyle or sports influencers are partnering with brands to promote sports nutrition to their community
  • The plant-based offer: vegetarians, vegans or those who choose to eschew the consumption of animal products can now also enjoy sports nutrition products.

As the sports nutrition market grows, it is becoming ever more segmented and specialised. Several promising subdivisions are thus emerging, such as hydration, preparation, energy, recovery, maintenance and muscle development, as well as well-being and health.

Product offerings are, therefore, increasingly diversified and targeted to meet the needs of a wide range of consumers who frequently have different profiles and expectations (athletes, bodybuilders, individuals seeking a healthier lifestyle, etc.). In parallel, several distinct trends are emerging in the sports nutrition market, including naturalness, practicality/nomadism, sustainability and, finally, foodification.

Foodification: what are we talking about?

We are already familiar with established sports nutrition products such as protein powders or bars. In recent years, however, we’ve seen an explosion of different sports nutrition formats. It’s now possible to experience an extensive range of products presented as protein cakes, snacks other than bars (bites, cereals, etc.), soups, ice creams, yoghurts, spreads, etc.

This is known as the foodification of sports nutrition. In this way, it’s easier to integrate sports nutrition products into an individual’s diet; that is, there’s no need to restrict oneself to protein shakes or bars. Sports nutrition is becoming increasingly incorporated into individual lifestyle choices and more accessible than ever.

With the foodification of sports nutrition solutions, sportspeople — whether beginners or professional athletes — have a multitude of options to choose from to meet their nutritional needs. Participating in sports on a regular basis naturally implies changes in nutrient requirements. It is therefore necessary to have a suitably adapted diet to meet them.

For example, active people need more protein. Increased stress on the body owing to exercise can result in muscle strain and/or the natural tearing of muscular fibres (the source of post-exercise aching). To facilitate the reconstruction of these fibres, it is necessary to increase protein consumption. This allows for improved muscle recovery or to develop muscle mass.

To optimise recovery, however, proteins aren’t the only nutrients that the body needs. During exercise, a heightened metabolism is associated with the increased production and release of acids in the muscles and blood (lactic acid, free radicals, cellular waste, etc.).

This alteration of the acid-base balance limits muscle recovery and can manifest itself as fatigue, reduced performance and/or injury. The practice of sport can also be associated with the production of free radicals. The oxidative stress and inflammation induced are likely to have a number of negative effects on the body.

It is therefore very important to provide the necessary nutrients to regulate the acid-base balance and oxidative stress, among other things. These nutrients can be obtained from food … but it’s also possible to supplement in parallel to optimise the intake of nutrients.

The huge growth in the number of people taking up sports has, in turn, brought about foodification. As more and more people have engaged with sports, and fitness in general, the image of sports nutrition has gradually changed.

It has gone from being a niche practice (only used by bodybuilders or athletes) or even having illegal connotations (as it has often been associated with doping) to a much more commonplace, lifestyle-oriented behaviour.

As a result, players in the sports nutrition market are multiplying in number and are facing ever-more stringent requirements, particularly in terms of their products’ environmental impact, composition and efficacy.

Ingredients in the sports nutrition market: keys to success

Sports nutrition solutions are composed of different categories of ingredients, including proteins, antioxidants and specific carbohydrates. Each of these address different physiological needs; however, they must all meet certain market requirements, which are efficacy, quality, traceability and taste.

Efficacy: To satisfy the needs of consumers and to stand out from the competition, the first hurdle to overcome is efficacy. For the final product to meet the expectations of consumers, it is essential that all the ingredients used have a notable and, above all, proven effectiveness.

Quality and traceability: The sports nutrition market is not immune to the general trends that affect the food industry: consumers are increasingly demanding in terms of the quality and origin of what they buy. Therefore, the traceability of ingredients and their origin are essential criteria in the development of sports nutrition solutions.

Taste and usability: Like quality, a product’s taste is important … and even more so when it comes to the foodification of sports nutrition. Consumers, although sporty, won’t forsake pleasure, even when it comes to supplementation.

Gone are the days of tasteless powders and bitter capsules: consumers are looking for something tasty. On the back of the foodification trend, supplementation must now adapt to the consumer, and not vice versa. This creates new challenges for the industry: ingredients must be compatible with all types of products. Not only do they have to taste good, they also have to withstand processes such as baking (for snacks and cakes).

Melorun, an ingredient by Robertet Health and Beauty, is a pertinent example that meets all the above criteria. This 100% natural melon juice concentrate strengthens the body’s natural antioxidant defences. With two human studies proving its effectiveness, this patented ingredient has five key benefits

  • promotes physical well-being
  • facilitates mental well-being
  • prevents oxidative stress and inflammation
  • maintains magnesium (Mg) levels (its protective effect against oxidative stress and inflammation prevents the loss of Mg, thus promoting vitality)
  • supports muscular and joint integrity.

Overall, Melorun contributes to an improved exercise experience, increased resistance to fatigue and faster recovery. With its low dose (40 mg), Melorun can be incorporated into a wide variety of products. It is available in a full range of coatings, allowing it to be adapted to various formulations, including

  • food supplements (tablets, capsules, gummies)
  • instant drinks (powders, sachets)
  • functional foods (bars, chocolates)
  • cosmetics (creams, gels).

Melorun is a perfect fit for the foodification of sports nutrition solutions trend. By providing several benefits, it also makes it possible to limit — and even reduce — the total complement of ingredients, which is also a major concern of consumers.

A combination of several trends

To bring greater value and make their products more attractive to consumers, companies are making increased efforts to combine trends. As a result, foodification can be combined with naturalness, the plant-based movement and sustainability.

Melorun ticks all these boxes: with its high SOD (superoxide dismutase) content, it is a 100% vegetable ingredient. Moreover, it’s the result of a sustainable manufacturing process. In fact, to produce Melorun, Robertet uses an eco-friendly technique, which is done close to source, that guarantees complete safety and traceability.

Melorun is manufactured using to a patented, gentle and ecological production process that’s free from solvents or additives. Successive filtration steps and rigorous temperature management enable a progressive concentration of the fruit’s antioxidants.

All the benefits are preserved while minimising the environmental impact of production. Melorun thus meets the expectations and requirements of consumers and formulators, allowing them to add both efficacy and innovation to their products.

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