Here are the top 10 highlights gleaned from FoodNavigator-USA's Sports & Fitness webinar last week:
Listen to the FREE 60-minute webinar on-demand to get even more insights into the booming sports and fitness category.
1. We are living in a social media economy
“Clicks and likes are gaining a monetary value as we see brands pay thousands to influencers to endorse their product. Review and product scores are becoming an essential part of the buying experience for consumers,” said panelist Tom Morgan of Lumina Intelligence.
Preliminary research from Lumina Intelligence shows that there’s a strong relationship between reviews and online revenue for brands in the US. In addition there’s been a 15% growth of online reviews for sports nutrition products between September 2018 and March 2019.
This correlation also applies to products disappearing from the market.
“From what we found, the lowest scoring and lowest engagement products online got dropped the most often,” added Morgan.
2. Whey protein comes out on top
According to Lumina Intelligence research, generic whey – not isolate or concentrate, or hydrolysate – is still the most popular form of protein available in 69% of protein powders.
3. Who are sports and fitness brands targeting?
Lumina market research revealed that 41% of products target athletes, the traditional consumer mainstay of the product.
However, when you look at the average online consumer engagement, the products targeting a general audience are gaining the most engagement, according to Lumina research.
“What also can be noted is that womens’ products are really performing well. They’re gaining significantly in online reviews both in scope and average number of reviews,” said Morgan.
4. Sports nutrition product health claims diversify
Health claims made by sports nutrition brands are moving away from muscle building claims and towards mention of digestive health, ‘easy-to-digest’ , joint health, and mental health, according to Lumina Intelligence.
5. Nostalgia and novelty are themes in flavors and formats
In the US market, baked good flavors and formats are most prevalent.
“You see a lot of Rocky Road, you see a lot of caramel, waffles, and cupcakes and this extends to protein bar market. Obviously, the bar is the most popular product…but protein cookies is where the majority of growth is being seen,” said Morgan.
6. The total sports & fitness market landscape: 2009 to today
"If you think about 2009, everything was different. In terms of retail, it was very much focused on specialty physical stores (e.g. GNC and Vitamin Shoppe), and that has obviously changed drastically in the last ten years,” said Joshua Schall, owner and president of J. Schall
Consulting, noting he mainstreaming effect taking place where many sports & fitness products are now purchased online or at conventional retailers.
“Sports & fitness and sports nutrition had always been stuck in kind of a silo, or the red-headed child to to some bigger CPG or FMCG categories…it’s never really gotten the right look,” said Schall, who noted that the tide is changing as large CPG companies are acquiring sports nutrition brands – such as Simply Good Foods $1bn acquisition of Quest Nutrition and Hershey’s acquisition of ONE Brands for $397m this year – which gives more credibility and legitimacy to the sports & fitness category.
7. Protein bars: Consumers’ tastes and preferences have evolved
According to Mark Lobliner, CEO of MTS Nutrition and creator of Outright Bar, the protein bar category has evolved from bars that helped you perform but “tasted like crap” to layered dessert bars that were like a candy bar with a little bit of protein added, to bars using ‘whole food’ ingredients.
“What I saw was people who were more interested in real, whole foods,” said Lobliner.
The Outright Bar is made with peanut or almond butter, oatmeal honey, and whey protein isolate.
8. ‘We don’t have a protein deficit’
Mark Samuel, CEO of IWON Organics, emphasized that Americans generally get enough protein, and that brands can differentiate themselves by focusing on other aspects of nutrition such as fiber and reduced sugar.
“We don’t have a protein deficit. We eat plenty of protein here in the states. Where we do have a deficit is in fiber; we don’t eat enough vegetables,” said Samuel.
9. Carbohydrates = fuel?
Jarred Smith, co-founder of Nooma, an organic electrolyte drink made with coconut water and sweetened with stevia, challenged the notion that carbs and simple sugars translate to fuel when working out.
“Carbohydrates to fuel…that’s what we’ve been told over and over, but is that actually smart? I don’t think 40 g of simple sugars are actually going to help you in the long run as an athlete,” said Smith.
10. Hyper online targeting
With the advances in digital advertising and the advent of Facebook ads, consumer marketing has never been more efficient, said Lobliner.
“You’re able to test market and the cost is low. I can target everybody within 10 miles of your house that lifts weight on Facebook right now… and know by 6 p.m. if it worked.”