3 trends shaking up the sports nutrition and fitness markets

3 trends shaking up the sports nutrition and fitness markets

Come Olympic time, the topic of sports performance takes on whole new meaning as athletes duke it out on the world stage in hopes of taking home the gold. Following the advice of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, many Olympic competitors steer clear of dietary supplements and sports nutrition products before the games—but that’s not the case for millions of other elite and average athletes, who together bought $3.6 billion worth of sports nutrition supplements in 2011.

Since the summer Olympics last came around in 2008, the sports nutrition market has changed pretty significantly—in mostly positive ways. Sure, we’ve seen popular sports supplements such as Jack3d and other DMAA-containing pre-workout boosters hit the skids over safety concerns, but we’ve also seen sport performance companies garner new customer segments as the appeal of protein supplements has gone mainstream and as the explosive growth of programs such as crossfit have forever connected the importance of nutrition with performance for a growing group of athletes.

On July 19, my New Hope Natural Media colleagues Nancy Coulter-Parker and Marc Brush will join Douglas Kalman, director of nutrition and applied clinical trials at Miami Research Associates, and Janica Lane, a partner at Partnership Capital Growth, in a Webinar to discuss the Evolving Sports Performance Market: Finding New Opportunities Today to Win Tomorrow.

Here are three trends—and the opportunities they represent for retailers, manufacturers and supplies—that will be explored in this free Webinar.

1. Sports nutrition gets clean

Compared to other product categories within the nutrition market, sports performance companies have long leaned toward offering more synthetic and engineered offerings that contain long lists of multisyllabic ingredients and are marketed with images of men and women who look like they could be the next Incredible Hulk. However, as more people within the mainstream market move toward wanting simpler, less processed nutrition, we are seeing the rise of cleaner, more natural sports performance products.

These products are particularly well positioned for the growing universe of endurance athletes, who tend to gravitate toward cleaner fuels, hydrators and recovery offerings. As we discuss in NEXT: The Natural Products Industry Forecast 2013, one of the most promising entrants in the clean performance market is Vega Sport, a completely plant-based line formulated by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier. Launched in 2011 by Vega (one of the sponsors of our July 19 webinar), the Vega Sport suit of products is free of all artificial ingredients, as well as gluten, soy, corn, added sugar and all animal products.

As Vega President Charles Chang told us for our NEXT research, consumers are looking just as closely for reasons not to buy a product as they are for reasons to purchase it—and that’s why the sports nutrition market is set to see the launch of a growing number of organic, raw, non-GMO and even vegan offerings in the near future. I agree with Chang and believe the rise of the “wholegrarian shopper” is driving the success of products such as Vega Sport and Honey Stinger’s organic, honey-based energy products for the endurance market.

2. Old ingredients become new again in sports performance

The old world of sports nutrition was dominated by creatine, beta-alanine, nitrous oxide, androstenedione, caffeine and other performance-boosting ingredients. Although these ingredients continue to play an important role in today’s sports market, we are also seeing many well-established nutritional stalwarts being researched and positioned for sports performance applications.

This trend can be traced to a new sports product launch by our other webinar sponsor, NeoCell, a collagen manufacturer that’s well-known in the nutricosmetic market but less so in sports performance. Called Collagen Sport, the new offering combines a ion-charged whey protein isolate with NeoCell’s proprietary Super Collagen to create a four-in-one product that promises to help athletes refuel, recover, regenerate and replenish.

Collagen Sport is just one example of a sports performance line based on tried-and-true nutritional ingredients that are finding new life in the sports market. We’re now also seeing sports products featuring probiotics, vitamin D, glycerol and L-carnitine.

3. Wellness moves to center stage

Next week, I have the privilege of moderating a panel at the NBJ Summit featuring Sean O’Dowd, director at Bayer Healthcare; Michael Hammer, senior director of venture capital strategy at PepsiCo; and Eric Buss, executive vice president of Life Time Fitness. I’m particularly eager to talk to Buss about the transformation occurring at Life Time Fitness, which is evolving to become so much more than a chain of traditional health clubs.

Positioned as “The Healthy Way of Life Co.,” Life Time offers a growing range of programs and services aimed at helping its members achieve their overall wellness goals. This includes chiropractic care, nutrition counseling, weight-loss challenges, massage and even salon services.

Most exciting, however, are the LifeCafés the company is opening within its clubs. LifeCafés offer a surprisingly robust range of healthy food options—and all of them are natural or organic. Catering to the growing community of wholegrarian eaters, the LifeCafé menu emphasizes whole food, plant-based, clean eating. Brands such as Honest Tea, Snikkidy and CLIF Bar are also sold in the cafés.

“We are positioning these as a little mini place like a Whole Foods where you can come in and buy what you want to buy and not worry about … having something that is not good for you,” Life Time President and CEO Bahram Akradi told investors in April.

Although I’m happy as a member of Crossfit Roots, the LifeCafé concept makes me wish we had a Life Time Fitness here in Boulder. I think this and other health club businesses are on to something big by focusing as much on supporting overall wellness as they do fitness.

Register today for our webinar on the Evolving Sports Performance Market. This free event takes place at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on Thursday, July 19.

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