Deep-Dive into the Pre-Workout Category: What’s Next?

by Matt Weik

To start off, I was reading an article on Nutraingredients from Nikki Hancocks that discussed the top trends and opportunities surrounding the pre-workout category. I found some of the things she said to be interesting – in both a good and bad way. As someone (me) who has been in the industry for nearly two decades, I wanted to touch on some of the things she said and chime in with my thoughts and opinions.

A “New” RTD Pre-Workout Category?

One of the first things Nikki talks about in the article is the fact that the majority of pre-workouts are in powder form. And I’m sure looking around at your local retailer or online you would tend to agree – I do. In fact, she mentions a statistic that 92% of what we find in the pre-workout category are powders.

In the next breath, she starts talking about pre-workout RTDs (ready-to-drink). Saying that there is a huge gap in the market for such products. I would tend to say “eeeeehhhhhh.” I spent nearly a decade working for MET-Rx. I saw a TON of pre-workout RTDs on the market. In fact, pre-workout RTDs were some of our best-sellers. One such product was NOS Pumped. It competed against (at that time) our rival ABB with their Speed Stack Pumped NO product. But those weren’t the only two brands to have an RTD in the pre-workout category – there were many (and some of them are still found in coolers today).

With all of that being said, the RTD market as a whole has somewhat dried up. Sure, you still see a plethora of RTDs in gym and supplement retailer coolers but not nearly what it used to be five or 10 years ago. Heck, when I was with MET-Rx we had a cooler planogram that our RTD products would fill every single sleeve in a cooler without needing to double up on flavors.

While I tend to agree that there is a market for pre-workout RTDs, I don’t see it being a huge push anytime soon. That ship seems to have sailed and brands are once again putting their focus on pills, powders, and capsules. And rightfully so as that’s where the greatest margins lie. Many people are now opting for the powdered version due to price. You can very easily find a pre-workout powder for under a dollar per serving where an RTD version is going to cost you around $3 if not slightly higher.

Consumers Finding Peace-of-Mind in Reviews

If you follow my content, I wrote an article about how I don’t read reviews. This is my personal preference, but I’m sure I’m not alone in my reasons why. In Nikki’s article, she talks about how consumers are utilizing reviews as a means of influencing buying behaviors. And I completely understand this concept that influence means a lot and when you have a bunch of reviews, it tends to make people feel better about making a purchase.

My thought process against this is that consumers shouldn’t need to rely on reviews if the brand did a good job of building trust with their customers. They shouldn’t need to be reassured about getting their credit card out. I know when a brand I trust comes out with something new, I feel confident already in trying it without ever asking if someone liked/disliked it.

The pre-workout category IS a little different though. And that is, not everyone is going to get the same reaction when taking a pre-workout. One product may hit someone extremely hard whereas someone else might not feel anything at all. It truly comes down to individuality and how seasoned you are with certain ingredients.

Pre-Workout Prop Blend Debate

Funny enough, this topic is something I also wrote about recently. If you follow my work, I’m sure you saw and read it. But Nikki brings up some points I want to cover in this article. She tossed out a statistic that 60% of what is found in the pre-workout category is hidden by proprietary blends. Surprisingly (check out this statistic), she goes on to say that pre-workouts containing proprietary blends tend to generate more than 330% more product reviews than those with transparent labels. That statistic absolutely blows my mind.

Consumers are absolutely becoming more knowledgeable on supplements and the ingredients found in things like the pre-workout category. Many are out doing their own research which I think is awesome. I like that consumers aren’t taking the brand’s word for things anymore and are doing their own reading and research. They are becoming familiar with what Carnosyn is, what beta-alanine is, the purpose of citrulline malate, the list goes on and on. And when they see such ingredients in products, they know what they should expect right away rather than needing to take it and assess.

Stop Being So Narrow-Minded with Your Demographic

If you were to look at the demographic using the most pre-workouts and guessed it was males, you’d be correct. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave the ladies out. More and more women are using supplements from the pre-workout category to get them pumped for their workouts both in the weight room and the cardio room. Don’t shy away from being more inclusive with products.

Nikki also points out in her article that, “Consumer and market trends show that older consumers are increasingly interested in more active lifestyles with the aim of remaining mobile, mentally sharp and independent for as long as possible. This is going to translate into a growing demand for products that support this goal.”

I’ve said it in previous things I’ve written. Everyone is looking at the 18-35 market but what happens when they turn 36? Stop turning your back on consumers based on a demographic. Fill the need for ALL people and watch what happens to sales.