Clean label muscles way into sports nutrition products

by Jeff Gelski
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Mike Roussell, Ph.D. discussed the clean label trend in sports nutrition at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando on April 28.
 

ORLANDO, FLA. — Many users of sports nutrition product still may analyze creatine and amino acid content, but other users also want to know what’s not in the product, such as artificial ingredients. Food dyes are one example.

“I’m really surprised in the last year how this (food dyes) has become a buying-point decision,” said Mike Roussell, Ph.D., a nutrition consultant for professional athletes and a member of the advisory board for Men’s Health.

Dr. Roussell and other speakers on April 28 at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando, Fla. spoke about how organic and free-from attributes are affecting sales of sports nutrition shakes, bars and capsules.

“Organic branched chain amino acid products are going to be a win because there are people, for no rational reason, who just want all organic.” Dr. Roussell said.

He said dairy-free, allergen-free and gluten-free might be other purchasing considerations. Such “clean label” interest comes as more people show interest in sports nutrition products.

“Sports nutrition is no longer limited to the guy with the 30-inch neck at GNC,” said Dr. Roussell, who has a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. “It’s everyone. It’s my mother, your kids. It’s really anybody now.”

Chris Schmidt, senior consumer health analyst for Euromonitor International

Users of sports nutrition products may be divided into three groups, said Chris Schmidt, a senior consumer health analyst for Euromonitor International.

Core users such as body builders and high-performance athletes are informed and critical. They learn about new ingredients and then demand them in new products. Casual users or “weekend warriors” make up the second group. They seek products that fit their lifestyle and contain more familiar ingredients such as protein and caffeine.

Fitness lifestyle users, who make up the third group, tend to be younger, urban, more affluent and willing to spend $200 to $300 a month on a gym membership and personal training.

“Fitness is not a standalone activity, but a fundamental element of their optimized, high-performance lifestyle,” Mr. Schmidt said.

“Clean label” may appeal more to the casual users and fitness lifestyle users, he said. Ethical and organic claims may affect their purchase decisions.

“It’s not more so of what must be included, but more so of what must not be included,” he said.

Mr. Schmidt also talked about an “open label,” which refers to a fully transparent ingredient list with no proprietary blends. Core users started the “open label” trend in sports nutrition products by wanting to know exactly what ingredients they were taking and in what amounts. Fitness lifestyle users have shown interest in “open label” as well.

“The idea that it appeals to both ends of the spectrum, I think it’s going to make this a pretty strong trend going forward,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Functional waters are another example of how “clean label” may affect the sports nutrition category, said Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst for Mintel.

Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst for Mintel

She said many people drink coconut water for hydration benefits after exercising. Maple water, prickly pear cactus water and artichoke water are other functional waters. Mintel data show 71% of sports drink consumers in Canada prefer to drink more natural beverages such as milk, water and coconut water instead of sports drinks.

“So certainly that natural positioning is attracting consumers — and definitely more of those lifestyle consumers who are looking for familiar ingredients,” Ms. Mattucci said.

She said Mintel data show 24% of U.S. adults who consume nutritional and weight loss drinks said it’s important that the products are made with natural ingredients. For sports drinks, 23% of U.S. adults said it’s important they are made with natural ingredients.

“Natural has spread beyond the regular food and drink market into sports products as well,” Ms. Mattucci said.
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