Optimum survey find Americans are vexed and lack health and fitness direction

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - fizkes
©Getty Images - fizkes

Related tags COVID-19 coronavirus Dietary supplement industry Sports nutrition sector Sports nutrition products

Americans are having difficulty maintaining emotional balance and holding to fitness goals during the pandemic crisis, an Optimum Nutrition consumer survey has found.

The survey was released last month by the sports nutrition manufacturer, which is part of the Glanbia Performance Nutrition group of brands.  Glanbia’s home office is in Dublin, Ireland, but Optimum’s US office is located in Downers Grove, IL.

The company recently completed an extensive survey of consumer attitudes in this unique period in US history.  The study included responses from more than 1,000 members of the general population.  The research builds on a smaller study the company did earlier this year with dedicated sports nutrition product users.  Sarah Lombard, Optimum’s director of marketing, walked NutraIngredients-USA through the results.

Linking data points to provide a precedent

Lombard said the larger survey reflects some of the results the company received earlier in the year.  While the survey did not contain a big surprise, Lombard said the data provides a more complete picture of consumers’ mindsets.  Taken together, the two data sets form a firmer basis from which to draw some conclusions given that there is really no precedent for what consumers are facing now.

“A lot of the insights we found were to be expected,” ​Lombard said. “There is a sense of stress and concern about emotional well being.”

“We found that with this concern about their health and well being there is an increased interest in supplements going forward,”​ she said.

Health routines languish during pandemic

  The survey found that the pandemic has taken a toll on the respondents’ perception of health and well being.  Without their accustomed support networks, many Americans are falling short on maintaining their health support routines.

The survey results show that 62% of  the respondents are concerned with their overall health. And they ways they’ve tried to stay health in the past are falling by the wayside, with 63% of respondents admitting they are not as active as they'd like to be.

More than half (51%) are exercising less than before the pandemic. In addition, 45% report gaining weight and 42% say they are eating less healthy. And a majority of respondents (85%) say they are facing barriers to getting healthier, including a lack of motivation (38%), insufficient financial resources (33%) or a lack of access to equipment and proper training for workouts (30%).

Pandemic inspires supplement use

Lombard said the survey gives some cause for optimism in the supplement industry. In line with other surveys of this type, the Optimum Nutrition exercise found interest in immune health supplements in particular is soaring.  Among the specific insights:

  • Due to the coronavirus, 57% of those surveyed said they have become more interested in learning more about the benefits of supplements and 63% of college graduates said the same.
  • One-fourth of males and 31% of females say the pandemic has inspired them to take supplements.
  • One-third of females surveyed said they are interested in learning how supplements can help their overall health and wellbeing.
  • 53% of those who said they are interested in supplements said they would like to find a supplement that supports their immune system, including 55% female, 58% of adults ages 45-54 and 59% of those 65+.
  • 56% of those with a 100k+ household income also said they want a supplement that helps their immune system.

Mental health concerns

Lombard of special concern is the increase in Americans who are worried about their mental health.  The survey found that two-thirds of respondents are more stressed and anxious than before the pandemic, and 45% report feeling, "less like myself."​ Feelings of isolation may be a contributing factor, as six in 10 feel like they've lost a sense of community because of COVID-19 and two in five are concerned about maintaining relationships with friends and family.

Still, Lombard said the survey showed signs of hope, too. As many as 86% feel that there are ways in which the pandemic could lead to lasting improvements, like a deeper appreciation for the little things in life (63%), for friends and family (56%).

Insights for sports nutrition: turn up the energy

Lombard said some of the insights specific to ingredients are of interest for sports nutrition industry.

“Some of the supplement categories that took a hit are pre and post workout products.  Along with the increased interest in immune health supplements, what we’ve really seem come of this is an increased interest in supplements that can provide energy,” ​Lombard said.

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