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Are Sports Foods the Future of the Supplement Market?

by Matt Weik

It’s interesting to watch trends shift back and forth and take on a new “craze”. In recent findings, it is said that there will be a shift from consumers using sports drinks and will instead be reaching for a sports food item. For years sports drinks have been a huge piece of the market with athletes reaching for their favorite protein shake or energy/recovery beverage to help them perform better in competition or while in the gym training. Now it seems that there’s a shift in the market due to more of the population getting active, joining fitness centers, and becoming more conscious and involved in their health and nutrition.

Macro/Micro Nutrients

While the bulk of the population is focusing on choosing more natural and organic foods, there is still a huge market for sports nutrition products to aid in macro and micro nutrients that an individual might be deficient in due to not getting enough in their diet. Sure, a simple fix would be a multivitamin/mineral product but surprisingly enough, very few people actually adhere to taking a daily multivitamin/mineral product either by choice or because they forget to take the pill(s).

The Supplement Industry Is on the Rise

With more and more consumers coming out of the woodwork to utilize sports nutrition products, it has driven the demand through the roof. P&S Market Research ran a report that is showing the largest growth between 2015-2020 will be from sports food with an increase of 9.7%. This will outperform the global sports nutrition market by 1.4% during the same time period.

Out with The Old and In with the New

The good news for consumers is that the increase in demand will also increase the number of companies who throw their hat in the ring and add to the already overpopulated sports nutrition market. What’s even more remarkable is the taste of new products hitting the market. This will more than likely add new innovation to the segment.

If you remember several years back, eating a protein or nutrition bar tasted like you were eating the cardboard box that they came packaged in. These days you have some of the best tasting and most unique flavors to date. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, while there are plenty of protein bars out on the market, you would do yourself a disservice if you didn’t look at the nutrition label before tearing it open and inhaling the bar. Many protein bars today, unfortunately, are mislabeled candy bars—loaded with unnecessary fats and sugars to mask the taste and have you coming back for more. While they generally supply you with a moderate amount of protein per serving, that’s about the only positive that comes from those sugar-filled bars. While many companies try to combat the sugar content by using sugar alcohols, that leaves many consumers with GI issues and running to the nearest bathroom. Be conscious of what you are picking up and look at the nutrition profile before you decide to take it up to the cash register.

Sports Foods on the Rise

In recent years, there have been several brands who have come on strong in the category such as: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Glanbia (parent company of ABB, Optimum Nutrition, BSN), Quest Nutrition, and Clif Bar & Company. You can now find several unique sports foods on the market ranging from high protein pasta, high protein chips, protein pancakes, among several others. The skies the limit and it seems like whatever crazy flavor combination a brand comes up with, they have been knocking it out of the park with the flavor profile. In my opinion, what we have seen thus far is only the tip of the iceberg with the best yet to come. With innovation coming market frequently, we are in store for some great tasting sports foods this in the next several years.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

We can’t live on cloud nine all the time, though. Unfortunately, it won’t always be smooth sailing on this journey. You will eventually hit some rough waters that will rock the boat—which the industry has had on several occurrences over the past few years.

The authors of the research mentioned that there will still be many challenges ahead when it comes to the sports food market where they were quoted saying, “negative perceptions about inclusion of questionable ingredients such as steroids and other banned substances, and availability of various health substitutes, are some of the challenges faced by the industry.”

Thus far the FDA has pretty much left the sports nutrition industry alone with a few letters and lawsuits here and there to keep companies in check. With the introduction of food products, who knows if it will eventually come back to hurt the sports nutrition industry by opening the door for the FDA to come in and begin regulating supplements. Only time will tell. But until then, I’m sitting here waiting for someone to release some high protein pizza because I’m starving.

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