Sports Nutrition - A Growing New Audience Emerges
From: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Sports nutrition is slowly moving from the niche markets of gyms and health food stores to mass-market outlets. Driven by new ingredients, packaging formats and changing consumer behaviour, sport products are finding their way into supermarkets and convenience stores to satisfy consumer demand for healthy and convenient lifestyle solutions. However, authenticity and efficacy remain big challenges for the sports nutrition market (Euromonitor, 2009) since consumers tend to be skeptical of the validity of the claims. Historically, consumers of sports nutrition products have been bodybuilders and athletes. This is changing as weekend sports enthusiasts and lifestyle users are creating new market opportunities for food manufacturers.
Consumers are increasingly demanding healthy and convenient lifestyle solutions, and sports nutrition products are one option that meets this need. The consumers of sports nutrition food, drinks, and supplements can be segmented into four different groups—bodybuilders, pro/amateur athletes, recreational users and lifestyle users:
- Bodybuilders are consumers who engage in the sport of bodybuilding, which entails building up muscle through a combination of weight training and increased caloric intake.
- Athletes include all professional sportspeople, with the exception of bodybuilders.
- Recreational users represent non-professional sportspeople who do not reach the same levels of physical exertion as athletes and bodybuilders. This consumer is someone who engages in sport as a hobby on the weekend, or is a fitness enthusiast.
- Lifestyle users are consumers who do not use sports nutrition products for sports or exercise purposes. People within this group mainly consume sports nutrition products as a refreshing beverage, a quick meal replacement or simply a healthy snack. Consumers within this group may also use sports nutrition products to provide an energy boost during illness, or even when feeling tired. Lifestyle users are the fastest growing group of users of sports nutrition products and are becoming a crucial part of the market. These consumers want to feel that they are engaging in healthy practices through consumption, so products must be positioned as a great tasting, healthy indulgence (Datatmonitor, 2006).
Bodybuilders and athletes have been the traditional consumers of sports nutrition products, particularly supplements; however, there is growing interest in these products from recreational and lifestyle users. What has become apparent is that there has become less of a distinction between the groups as illustrated in Figure 1. The positioning of sports nutrition products has increasingly shifted to the new consumer groups of recreational and lifestyle users. Sporting professionals tend to seek out more scientific, specialized product formulations. By contrast, sports and energy drinks are now increasingly associated with fewer sports-related drinking occasions and some energy drinks are even gaining popularity as a mix for alcohol. Manufacturers have placed more emphasis on attributes associated with normal soft drinks, such as product packaging and flavouring. Advertisements feature everyday consumers playing sports rather than world-famous sportsmen and women. This movement ultimately reflects the blurring of the lines between consumer groups, with products needing to offer something to satisfy all groups.
As the market moves toward better tasting products that appeal to lifestyle users, more serious athletes and bodybuilders will require more effective, targeted, sports nutrition products. These consumers will want to disassociate themselves from the recreational and lifestyle users and products, so foods and beverages targeting this market must emphasize their scientific benefits (Datamonitor 2006).