A. Elizabeth Sloan

The sports performance food and beverage market is set to explode. America’s 72 million Gen Yers are about to enter the age bracket where use of sports nutrition products is at its peak. Of those age 18–25, 44% bought a sports or energy drink in 2005, 20% a sports nutrition bar, 18% a protein powder, and 11% a sports nutrition supplement, according to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI). Of those age 26–35, the respective figures were 27%, 18%, 8%, and 6%.

Multi-Sponsor Surveys reports that the No. 1 reason teens made a dietary change, added/removed a food from their diet, or went on a special food regimen in 2005 was to improve performance.

The 76 million Baby Boomers have become the fastest-growing segment of the exercise market, and they’re bringing a new set of performance needs associated with aging bodies, lighter exercise, and coping with health conditions such as heart, joint/bone, and menopause/hormonal issues while exercising.

According to Simmons NCS, 50% of all adult Americans, 110 million, engaged in some sort of regular exercise program in 2005. The National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) reported that 34.7 million adults worked out at 26,800 health clubs last year.

According to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), United States sports drink sales, led by Gatorade, totaled $4.6 billion in 2005 (up 14% from 2004); energy drinks $2.5 billion (up 60%).

With the purchase of PacificHealth, Cadbury Schweppes will move the debate over the benefit of protein in sports drinks into the spotlight. Other key directions are lower-sugar and lower-calorie sports/energy beverages, peptide-containing drinks, milk- and soy-based energy drinks, customized powdered drink mixes in small portable vials, and stimulating ingredients other than caffeine.

After nearly 20 years of explosive growth, nutrition-bar sales fell in 2005 for the second year in a row, down 4% to $1.95 billion, reports NBJ. The hardcore athletic-bar segment remains a niche, with sales of $76 million in 2005. Very high-protein bars, trending toward a 50:50 protein:carbohydrate ratio, are the most significant bar trend. Many bars now contain stimulating ingredients similar to those in energy beverages.

The sports supplement segment reached $2.2 billion in 2005 (up 6%), reports NBJ. Sales of protein powders topped $1.4 billion, led by whey protein powders.

NMI found that 48% of hard-core athletes use sports energy drinks (compared to 70% of "weekend warriors"), 45% whey protein powders, 43% sports bars, 38% amino acids, 32% soy protein powders, 32% sports nutrition supplements, 30% creatine, 29% sports recovery products, 27% other protein powders, and 16% weight-gain products.

The $2-billion liquid-meal-replacement market appears to be rebounding after falling 12% over the past three years because of the low-carb diet craze; sales were up 1% for the year, according to Information Resources, Inc.

"Fitness products" are a new trend in confectionery. And some foodservice chains are featuring energy beverages. White Castle offers Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle energy drink, and 7-Eleven has a line of energy drinks/bars.

According to Mintel and Simmons NCS, 47% of adult consumers fall into at least one of three groups: "Teamers," participants in team sports (10%); "Individualists," participants in gym activities/individual workouts (33%); and "Adventurists," participants in adventure sports (6%).

With 35.5 million participants, weightlifting is the fastest-growing sport/activity, up 35% in 2005, according to NSGA. Exercise walking is the largest exercise activity, with 86 million participants (up 1.5%), followed by swimming 58 million (up 8.5%), exercising with equipment 54 million (up 4%), and aerobic exercising 34 million (up 14%). Thirty million play basketball, 29 million jog/run, and 14 million play soccer.

Individualists are more likely to be older and female, and 47% are at least 45 years old, compared to 32% of Adventurers and 19% of Teamers. They are health and calorie conscious, regulate their intake of healthful food components such as fiber, and are more likely to be dieting.

Teamers are younger—32% are 18–24 years old, and 22% are Hispanic. Hispanics are 14% more likely than Whites and 8% more likely than Asians or Blacks to drink energy beverages, according to Mintel/Simmons.

Expect a growing demand for more customizable and better-tasting sports foods and beverages. With 61% of consumers using physical activity for weight loss and management, sports products that offer a dieting advantage will also have high appeal, as will those displaying a unique form or application system. And with flexibility, muscle tone, and heart protection growing as major exercising motivations, they’ll be a new generation of products for the active aging set.

by A. Elizabeth Sloan,
Contributing Editor
President, Sloan Trends, Inc.,Escondido, Calif.
[email protected]