Which Factors Are Driving Consumer Purchases in Sports Nutrition Products?

By: Watson Team on Oct 3, 2019

As the fastest-growing segment in consumer health, sports nutrition is drawing unprecedented attention from food, beverage, and supplement manufacturers. Learn what’s driving both core users and active lifestyle newcomers to purchase sports nutrition products and how manufacturers can seize this high growth opportunity.

Sports Nutrition Growing and Evolving

According to Euromonitor International, the global sports nutrition market grew 190 percent from 2004 to 2018, at a CAGR of 7.9 percent.1 The rise of the active lifestyle consumer is largely responsible for this growth. What began as dabbling in sports nutrition products to provide general support for an active, healthy lifestyle has given way to seeking products that address very specific needs.

Core Users vs. Active Lifestyle Consumers

The original sports nutrition consumers (known as core users) remain focused on products that support optimal athletic performance. Core users seek specific functional benefits to keep their bodies in tip-top shape before, during, and after intense physical activity. Ingredients that deliver desired benefits are prioritized over clean label ingredients.

Active lifestyle consumers tend to pursue less intense fitness activities, such as jogging, hiking, or participating in exercise classes at the gym. The aim of active lifestyle consumers who seek out sports nutrition products is not to support performance, but to support a healthy lifestyle. Functional, clean label products are important to these consumers.

What’s Driving Core Users?

1) Muscle and Strength Building

Core users involved in weightlifting and other types of strength training often rely on sports nutrition products to meet their high protein demands. Shakes are the preferred product format and should contain complete proteins such as whey or soy. Creatine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) also appeal to these consumers.


Smiling man making a protein shake.

2) Hydration

Hydration is another major driver of sports nutrition purchases. Serious athletes look for beverage mixes and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages that contain electrolytes—particularly potassium and sodium—so they can replenish while they rehydrate. Multiple electrolytes can be combined into a single custom nutrient premix for easy addition to any beverage.

3) Endurance

For endurance athletes, products with easily digestible carbohydrates are ideal. Other top ingredients for this segment are BCAAs and caffeine. Gels are popular sports nutrition products for these consumers.

4) Recovery

Core users take post-exercise recovery seriously with a focus on hydration to restore lost fluids and on consuming the right macro-nutrients. Sports nutrition products for recovery should contain protein to repair damaged muscle tissue and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. Electrolytes are an added bonus.

What’s Driving Active Lifestyle Consumers?

1) Muscle Support

Active lifestyle consumers choosing products for muscle support range from Millennials seeking to supplement a vegan or vegetarian diet to Boomers striving to prevent age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss). Protein is the key ingredient for these consumers—especially plant protein, which continues to have a health halo.

2) Weight Loss

Weight loss is another driver of sports nutrition purchases among active lifestyle consumers. These consumers are checking labels for features such as low sugar and high protein or fiber. Bars and RTD beverages are useful product formats for this group.

Exercise class.

3) Energy

Consumers are also seeking to increase their energy levels to help keep up with the demands of their busy lives. Sports nutrition products with functional ingredients such as B vitamins, green tea extract, and caffeine are especially appealing and can be added to any food or beverage through a custom nutrient premix.

4) Healthy Snacking

While the busy, on-the-go lifestyles of these consumers have made snacking a necessity, they are unwilling to snack on just anything. Sports nutrition foods (such as protein bars) are perceived as healthier than many traditional snacks. Even fortified cookies and snack cakes represent better-for-you alternatives to popular indulgent treats.

Simplify Sports Nutrition with a Custom Nutrient Premix

For manufacturers eager to jump into the rapidly growing category of sports nutrition, using a custom nutrient premix is a simple way to get started. A custom nutrient premix can contain amino acids, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and even proteins, depending on the needs of your target consumers.

A custom nutrient premix made exactly to your specifications and pre-blended for easy addition can transform your existing food or beverage into a winning sports nutrition product! Want to learn more? Click to watch our video on what to look for when choosing a Custom Nutrient Premix supplier.

  1. Euromonitor International. (2018). The Expansion of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved from https://blog.euromonitor.com/the-expansion-of-sports-nutrition/