E. Liz Sloan

A. Elizabeth Sloan

Faced with a new set of health and lifestyle issues driven by COVID-19, consumers are increasingly opting for a more holistic, active lifestyle that uses exercise to help manage their health and well-being. Not surprisingly, they are looking for a new generation of more aggressive and often multifunctional sports nutrition, weight loss, and energizing foods/drinks to support their efforts.

Undoing the Damage

Nearly a year of lockdowns, social distancing, and anxiety has taken its toll: Four in 10 Gen Z adults aged 18–24, one-third of millennials/Gen Xers, and just over one-quarter of boomers gained weight since the pandemic, according to the Natural Marketing Institute. HealthFocus’ 2020 Now and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic cites immunity, stress, anxiety, lack of energy/tiredness, sleeplessness, heart disease, and overweight among Americans’ top 10 health concerns.

Many consumers have turned to exercise to help prevent and/or treat health conditions, including weight, anxiety/stress, fatigue, heart, diabetes, and memory/cognition, per the Hartman Group’s Health + Wellness 2019. Meanwhile, the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 2021 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends notes that “exercise as medicine” ranks eighth among the top U.S. fitness trends for 2021. According to Mintel’s 2020 Exercise Trends—U.S., those living a holistic, active lifestyle (exercise three to five days per week) already represent 37% of the U.S. adult population.

Fueling Fitness 2021

Nearly six in 10 consumers say they are committed to exercising more in 2021, says ADM’s 2020 OutsideVoice research. Half of gym/health club users are concerned about immunity; four in 10 are exercising to improve their mood, per the 2020 COVID Era Fitness Consumer report from fitness group IHRSA.

All that exercise needs fuel: One-third (36%) of consumers always/usually had a food/beverage before exercising, 26% during, and 48% after in 2019, reports HealthFocus. With online training and outside activity among the top fitness trends for 2021, per ACSM, expect a new generation of at-home sports foods and beverages, each offering support for specific health and fitness objectives.


• Dole’s Boosted Blends frozen smoothie mixes are available in Energize with a boost of matcha green tea and Protein with whey and almond butter.

Coca-Cola With Coffee with 69 mg of caffeine per can offers a more traditional energy drink for active adults.

• Over four in 10 millennials/Gen Z adults are interested in nootropics, ashwagandha, and maca for energy/focus, according to the Hartman Group’s 2020 Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements.


Propel Immune Support electrolyte water for active lifestyles provides 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin C; 30% for zinc.

• Millennials and Gen Z look toward elderberry and medicinal mushrooms for immunity, per the Hartman Group’s functional food and beverage report.


• Strength is now the third most important reason to exercise, just behind health and weight, according to HealthFocus. Strength/muscle health ranks fifth among benefits consumers most want to get from foods, per the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey.

Ensure Active Heart Health nutrition shakes and Splenda Diabetes Care protein shakes are well positioned for the seven in 10 boomers and six in 10 consumers with pre-existing conditions who are committed to being more active this year, per IHRSA.


• Exercising for greater mobility is among the top 20 U.S. fitness trends. The ability to continue normal activities with age is another priority health concern, per HealthFocus.

• Exercise intensity is moderate for most active adults: 107 million are exercise walkers, per the National Sporting Goods Association.

Weight Loss

• Marketdata Enterprises projects frozen meals will again lead sales growth in the $71 billion U.S. weight loss sector.

• Jenny Craig’s new Rapid Results Max program is based on intermittent fasting and includes a ReCharge Bar to increase fat burn.

• Adding a brain health claim to a weight loss meal replacement drink would motivate 74% of consumers to purchase the product, per Mintel’s 2020 Functional Beverages—U.S.

Multiple Benefits

• It is time to offer combination products that tout other benefits consumers associate with protein. Over half link protein to physical energy, four in 10 to brain nourishment, and one-quarter to satiety, per HealthFocus.

• Staying hydrated is consumers’ top self-care behavior, per an IRI survey. Voss + Aquamine extra-hydrating water for active adults contains 74 minerals/electrolytes.

• Probiotics and postbiotics are among the ingredients increasingly associated with enhanced sports performance. Molson Coors recently introduced its Huzzah Probiotic Seltzer.

About the Author

A. Elizabeth Sloan, PhD, Contributing Editor, Consumer Trends column, State-of-the-Industry reports
President, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif.
[email protected]

E. Liz Sloan