The sports nutrition industry made some important advances in both sales and technology in 2016, but the market still faces regulatory and legal issues.
Market research indicates that the sports nutrition sector can be expected to grow from its 2015 appraisal of $28 billion to over $50 billion by 2022 (P&S Market Research). Analysts predict an 8.4% compounded annual growth in that time frame.
Euromonitor International (EI) reports that the US was the largest sports nutrition market, at 12% growth. EI reported that the industry’s expanding consumer demographic is the primary driver, with 25 to 34-year-olds as the main consumer demographic. The report noted middle-aged adults today are more active and are turning the sports nutrition industry to enhance their nutritional fitness regimens.
Sales Demographic Trends
At the Expo West convention in Anaheim, California this year, David Sandler of Strengthpro.com said consumers across many sports nutrition subgroups want advanced products that work and that are scientifically proven safe.
Branded ingredients are gaining in popularity.
Sandler told interviewers consumers want new technology in product delivery. Innovative products feature sophisticated flavor technologies and methods of delivery, and “they taste better and are easier to use."
One such new product application is Regimen Whey with GPAC Technology as 2016’s winner of Supply Side West Editor’s Choice Award. Regimen Whey features a convenient protein pouch which also helps with dosage control.
New Technologies & New Ingredients
Much innovation is also evident in modern ingredients. Two exciting new ingredients for 2016 include cucumber extract and whey flavor technology.
Glanbia Nutritionals introduced EasyFlav Whey, which makes traditional carbohydrates obsolete and delivers protein and flavor for a promising new whey product with more protein and 30% less carbs.
This new technology is made possible by vegetable-protein-neutralizing techniques from EasyFlav and has been adapted to help food manufacturers incorporate high concentrations of whey while still delivering a consistent and enjoyable flavor.
XSTO Solutions and Naturalea SA introduced Cuvitus, an exceptional new cucumber extract, to the North American market. Known in Europe as Crownhealth Gherkin, it is a whole fruit extract derived from Cucumis Sativa. It was designed to give relief from muscle and joint pain after exercise. It was developed with the help of university research partners, is created through a proprietary extraction procedure, and helps to regulate temporary inflammation resulting from the rigors of exercise.
Other emerging ingredients include shilajit, a mineral found in the Himalayan Mountains useful as a testosterone and nitric oxide booster for longer periods of exercise and better performance. Plant protein continued to gain momentum in the market, while insect protein also continued to gain acceptance in many sports products.
This unusual protein is derived primarily from crickets, which are considered a plentiful and sustainable source that can be made into an easy to use and good tasting powder.
Research & Development
The demand for effective ingredients supported by science grew significantly in this year. Here is a brief rundown of sports nutrition highlights in product/ingredient research for 2016:
- Testofen Addresses Androgen Deficiency, Boosts Testosterone
- Curcumin Extract Curtails Post-Exercise Muscle Fiber Inflammation and Damage
- Specialty Arginine Increases Nitric Oxide
- Improved Endurance Palm Tocotrienol and Whey Pairing
- Tart Cherry Juice Improves Athletic Performance, Aids Recovery
- Probiotic Helps Protein Metabolization
- Probiotic Helps Reduce Exercise-Induced Asthma\
The Business of Sports Nutrition
Product technology developments are always an objective of formulators and retailers, but there is so much activity on the supply side that helps to shape the brands that resonate most with consumers.
Companies continue to form partnerships to introduce new products to the market.
At the “Business of Sports Nutrition" workshop in October, Europa CEO, Eric Hillman explained that two merging distributors could form the biggest sports nutrition distributor in the US, with 45 years of experience and 16,500 customers, and $400 million in revenues between them. Another significant acquisition was made by American Securities of the Milk Specialties company last summer.
Competitor lawsuits and federal legal cases are an ongoing problem for the industry.
Among brands taking competitors to court in 2016, were Capstone Nutrition’s claim against MusclePharm for breaches of contract and failure to pay for $22 million worth of products. MusclePharm has been restructuring its business model in response. Its management settled with Capstone for $11 million and the rights to purchase 1.2 million in stocks in November.
These are just a sample of the year’s litigation in sports nutrition.
Of course, federal actions have also been a significant stumbling block for many brands and manufacturers for as long as the sports nutrition industry has existed. Federal agencies have taken action against anabolic steroid products with the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004.
They took aim at prohormones by drafting the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014 into law.
2016 witnessed sweeping federal action against companies selling adulterated products illegally containing pharmaceuticals or anabolics. The executives of those companies were also targeted. In July of this year, the DOJ and FDA indicted two sports nutrition executives for conspiracy to sell steroids illegally.
The charges carry potentially substantial fines and punishments.
The FDA was unsuccessful in its attempts to forward claims against a dietary supplement contract manufacturing firmtied to alleged illegal activities involving a DMAA based sports supplement that was linked a 2013 liver disease outbreak.
Growing Pains Internationally
Naturally, as sports nutrition makes gains around the world, including a Chinese market that is champing at the bit for access to foreign brands, regulatory compliance may become more of a challenge. China presented new sports supplement safety standards to address a problem with unauthorized selling in the region- especially via online sources dealing in counterfeit products.
This year in review is really just a sample of the many significant changes, advances, and challenges experienced by the sports nutrition industry this 2016.
While the advances have been momentous, and the setbacks have been very disruptive, it’s fair to say that any industry involved in the advancement of sports nutrition and health, outside the purview of the medical community, is bound to face significant stumbling blocks.
But the advances, not to exclude the sharply piqued interest among consumers to achieve superior sports and nutritional wellness, are sufficiently promising- and the reality of the benefits are so powerful- that the industry can only expect to grow by leaps and bounds.