Sports nutrition winners and losers

As a spectator sport, the sports-nutrition market might be a lot of fun — speckled with dazzling stars and quickly forgotten wannabes. But for participants, it's rough and tumble, and no place for sissies. Look for the following in the coming season.

Line up the energy shots
As the energy-drinks category as we know it begins to plateau, manufacturers are looking for a replacement, and that may come in the form of 'energy shots.'

The Japanese functional-beverages market has been delivering bioactives through 90ml/4oz (or less) portions for years, and it now seems these handy little products are breaking through in the US. Products such as Energize (iSatori), 5-Hour Energy (Living Essentials), and Jolt Endurance Shot (Wet Planet Beverages) are all making headway in this developing area.

Flying in the face of Monster energy (Hansen Natural Corp) and mass-volume drinks, these convenient and long-acting beverages are going to find significant volume not only in the energy market but also as a delivery format across the board, including beauty and weight loss. With North America already taking to this developing trend, Europe will be the next target for such products.

Mega-dose caffeine could see a cutback
One of the larger issues that will face all categories, and especially energy, is that of mega-dose caffeine. A September 2008 study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine identified the potential dangers of caffeine intoxication. Following this study, 100 scientists and physicians sent a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration asking for more regulation of increasingly popular energy drinks because their high caffeine content puts young drinkers at possible risk for caffeine intoxication.

Although this is not a new area of research, the trial is one of the largest and follows indications that governments are watching the area carefully. As an indication of tightening concern in this area, the European Union now requires that energy drinks have a 'high caffeine content' label. As such, 2009 may mark a turning point in the mass use of caffeine as the staple ingredient in such products, or a change in delivery systems to enhance the effectiveness of lower-dose products.

Will weight loss go strictly pharmaceutical?
GlaxoSmith-Kline's (GSK) OTC weight-loss drug, alli, generated $354 million during its first 12 months on the market. Recently, GSK also petitioned the FDA to treat weight-loss claims as a disease claim. Was this done from genuine concern about public health, or a positioning by GSK to monopolise the category? You decide. Despite not totally taking over the weight-loss category, and petitions aside, it did some damage to the US market, and Europe could be next on the hit list.

LDI Group consultancy president Loren Israelsen paints a stark picture of GSK's petition: "This is a titanic battle between one company and the dietary-supplements industry. It could destroy the dietary-supplement weight-loss market."

In late October 2008, GSK announced that alli has received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency's (EMEA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) as a nonprescription product. As a result, approval of alli could be granted by the end of the year across all 27 EU member countries with an anticipated launch in 2009 as the first licensed weight-loss treatment available without a prescription. Despite the initial positive results, it will be interesting to see how local member states deal with the way the product is advertised.

Innovation always has been the underlying factor driving the sports-nutrition and weight-loss markets. However, 2009 is likely to be one of the most difficult for new-product development, with increased regulations and novel-ingredient launches diminishing.

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