Is growing consumer scrutiny and ‘mainstream protein’ putting sports nutrition under pressure?

Is growing consumer scrutiny and ‘mainstream protein’ putting sports nutrition under pressure?

More than 70% of UK-based users of sports nutrition would like to see an industry-wide certification that ensures the quality of ingredients, according to new Mintel data that also suggest a blurring of lines between traditional sports nutrition products and ‘on trend’ high protein foods.

The research from Mintel shows that the high levels of scrutiny for mass-market food and drinks is translating into specialised nutrition markets like that of sports nutrition.

While usage remains strong – with 27% of Brits using sports nutrition products – a huge proportion of those users (63%) admit they find it difficult to tell whether a sports nutrition product is benefitting them, says Mintel.

Meanwhile, almost three-quarters (72%) of users would like to see an industry-wide certification that ensures quality of ingredients.

According to data, almost two-thirds (64%) of those who eat or drink sports nutrition products say they always read the ingredients list before buying a new product, while and nearly half (46%) of users avoid sports nutrition products that contain sugar.

“Sugar is one such ingredient in the spotlight, signalling the need to highlight reduced sugar contents on-pack where possible,” says Mintel in its ‘Attitudes towards Sports Nutrition UK 2017’ report. “Meanwhile, opportunities are ripe for operators to explore products made with all-natural ingredients, with significant demand for such products.”

Anita Winther, research analyst at Mintel, noted that greater transparency from manufacturers could help: “Looking to the future, there is a high level of ingredient scrutiny among sports nutrition users, highlighting the need for brands to be transparent about what goes into their products,” she said.

In the absence of an industry-wide certification, the Mintel data suggests that retailers and brands could hope gain an edge “by shining a light on their quality controls, or by inviting external verifiers to scrutinise these.”

Protein threat

However, UK users are no longer relying solely on sports nutrition products to keep them fit and performing well – as use of high-protein foods and drinks is also strong in the target group of consumers.

Indeed, Mintel says three in 10 (29%) Brits have eaten or drunk high-protein food or drink products in 2017, with 45% believing it is important to increase protein intake when exercising regularly.

“The sports nutrition market is facing intensifying competition from the growing number of mainstream foods embracing a high-protein proposition,” said Winther. “Usage of the two overlaps heavily and the more accessible prices and less processed image are likely to work in favour of the latter, with ‘lifestyle’ users particularly likely to be swayed.”

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