Sports nutrition is all about improving athletic performance. The target audience includes everyone from professional and academic athletes to workout aficionados and eight-hour day employees who want to take out their bureaucratic frustration on a punching bag. Sports nutrition products include foods, beverages and supplements specially formulated with macro and micronutrients that assist with overall health, performance and muscle development. Protein is the focus of many of these products, with whey proteins often the star attraction.
“With a growing focus on a healthy lifestyle, consumers are choosing products that promise additional benefits,” says Manjunath Reddy, a lead analyst at Technavio market research. “This has significantly propelled the global sports nutrition market among health-conscious consumers.”
The sports nutrition market has changed in recent years from being a niche sector of specialty products to being a mass-market lifestyle. While bars dominate the sector, followed by beverages, shoppers are seeking out other food formats to get the nutrients they need to perform at their best.
Technavio researchers agree that there will be significant growth in the U.S. sports nutrition market due to an inclination toward healthy eating and a growing number of health clubs and fitness centers. This trend is more prevalent among the younger population.
This presents a growth opportunity for dairy processors. It’s time to innovate for the sports nutrition aisle – and specialty stores and the cafes inside gyms -- and not just the dairy case.
It was not that long ago that supplements – pills, powders, gels, etc. – were the go-to for many seeking out athletic improvement, health and wellness. This has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, as was apparent at the 38th annual Natural Products Expo West that took place March 8 to 11, 2018, in Anaheim, California. Noticeably on the expo floor, less space was dedicated to supplements than in years past. This is likely attributed to the fact that today’s consumers are increasingly seeking out natural, organic and functional foods for short- and long-term health and wellness. And, manufacturers are delivering. Dairy processors, this is a HUGE opportunity.
Recognizing that protein is a crucial part of a high-performance diet, especially for athletes who are aiming for best-in-class status, and that National Collegiate Athletic Association rules ban many dietary supplements, companies are getting creative with their marketing of sports nutrition foods and beverages on university campuses.
Here’s one that stands out. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department is home to the new state-of-the-art Jack Links Protein Performance Center. This first-of-its-kind facility opened in January 2018 and is designed to meet the specific nutrition needs of student athletes. It is located inside Wisconsin’s Stephen M. Bennett Student-Athlete Performance Center. There will also be two Jack Link’s grab-and-go refueling stations at Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center, allowing student-athletes to power up 24-7, whether they are on the way to class, recovering from a workout or just needing a pick-me-up between meals.
Link HERE to view a video about the Center.
Of course, Jack Link’s, a family-owned Wisconsin-based meat snack company makes sure its products are fully stocked in all locations.
“Today, we’re more than a jerky company, we’re a global leader in protein,” says Troy Link, CEO. “This growth comes from our efforts to bring our protein-packed products to new consumers, including student athletes.”
Dairy processors are wise to think the same way.
The Center offers many Wisconsin-made dairy products, too. This includes Land O’Lakes cheese sticks, Odyssey Greek yogurt, Organic Valley Fuel and regular chocolate milk, Rapid Whey, and UW Babcock Hall high-protein ice cream, along with custom fresh-made smoothies.
Organic Valley Organic Fuel is said to help you make the most of your workout. Available in chocolate and vanilla flavors, the high-protein milk shake is packed with an ideal ratio of protein and carbohydrates. An 11-ounce bottle provide 26 grams of whey and casein.
The combination of fast-digesting whey proteins with slow-acting casein proteins is essential for athletic recovery. This is because the combination provides a constant flow of amino acids and the essential nutrients needed to replenish a body and maximize post workout recovery while building and repairing lean muscles.
A select number of dairy processors are involved in the sports nutrition market, but there’s a great deal of room for innovation and growth. I challenge formulators to explore the inclusion of functional ingredients intended for this space.
Potassium and magnesium, for example, are important for hydration. Lack of these minerals may lead to cramps or muscle spasms. The B-vitamins, which are water soluble and thus lost from the body during sweating, are critical for the conversion of proteins and carbohydrates into energy. They are also used for cell repair and production. Vitamin B-6, in particular, is useful in sports nutrition products. It has been shown to be uniquely important for cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular and nervous system function.
Isomaltulose is a low-glycemic sweetener made from beet sugar and occurs naturally in honey. It is fully digestible; thus, it provides full carbohydrate energy in a balanced and sustained way, eliminating the undesired “boost and crash effect” generally associated with other sugars, making it ideal for sports nutrition products.
Even natural caffeine makes sense as a source of energy. Studies show an average improvement in performance of about 12%, with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than with shorter exercise. This non-calorie stimulant, however, may exert a diuretic effect. Too much is never a good idea.
fairlife LLC, is onto the caffeine angle. Less than two months ago, the company brought back the coffee flavor to its Core Power protein shakes line, joining banana, chocolate, strawberry banana and strawberry. While its predecessor was a part of the “light” series with 20 grams of protein per serving, the new product delivers 26 grams per 11.5-ounce bottle. With 85 milligrams of caffeine in each bottle, the variety delivers an energized caffeine kick to help revitalize while refueling the body with casein and whey proteins.
Core Power Coffee is the latest addition to the company’s ever-growing line of high-protein recovery shakes and with its relaunch in spring 2018, the entire Core Power collection will sport a refreshed look with sleek, modern packaging when it hits stores nationwide.
“The cult following for Core Power is strong among health-conscious athletes – from yogis and runners to weekend warriors and elite athletes – who want to build lean muscle and support healthy recovery. So much so that, after we discontinued the coffee flavor, we were inundated with passionate messages and inquiries from fans requesting that we bring back our oh-so-tasty caffeinated sports nutrition recovery drink,” says Sue McCloskey, dairy farmer and co-founder of fairlife, LLC. “We credit our very vocal and committed fans with the return of the coffee flavor. The many pleas we received made it clear that the coffee culture is a very important one to our consumers and, because we are committed to meeting their needs, we are excited to launch Core Power Coffee.”
Arizona-based Shamrock Farms is the dairy industry’s forerunner in sports nutrition. The company markets an array of 12-ounce bottles of Rockin’ Protein (formerly Rockin’ Refuel) to meet varied nutritional needs.
Recovery provides 20 grams of protein in a 2:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio to help repair and replenish muscles. Builder is lactose free and contains 30 grams of protein and only 6 grams of sugar to help build muscle mass. There’s also a Builder Max (20 ounces) version with 50 grams of protein. Rockin’ Protein Lean products offer lower-calorie and lower-sugar versions of the muscle recovery and muscle-building products.
“Shamrock Farms continues to elevate milk, making it relevant for today’s consumers with innovative, delicious products,” says Ann Ocana, chief marketing officer. “Our promise is that we are real. Shamrock Farms products are made with real milk, with real protein and real, great taste.”
Gatorade offers recovery protein shakes, too. The shelf-stable 11.16-ounce bottles come in chocolate cookies and cream, peanut butter and chocolate, and vanilla flavors. Each bottle contains 20 grams of casein and whey proteins and is supplemented with potassium.
In Germany, Elsdorfer Molkerei continues to grow its MeinQ + Protein brand, which the dairy describes as a “powerful range” for the “fitness dimension for high-protein nutrition.”
The line includes MyQ Fitness Drink. Sold in four-packs of shot-style 100-milliliter drinks, each bottle contains 10 gram of protein. Initial flavors are strawberry and vanilla. There is also new MyQ Fitness Pudding in chocolate and vanilla flavors. The puddings are low-carb, low-fat and high in protein, with a 100-gram serving providing 10-grams of protein.
Dutch dairy FrieslandCampina is introducing its own protein-rich sports nutrition range under the Vifit Sport brand, which includes a range of drinks, shakes and
“Our product developers have developed products that respond to the needs of a growing group of active sportspersons by making use of our knowledge about the nutritional value of dairy for the build-up and recovery of the muscles,” says Roelof Joosten, CEO of Royal FrieslandCampina. “With this sports nutrition, we aim at all sportspersons. Therefore the products are available on-line as well as at a large pharmacy chain. We explicitly aim at all sportspersons with a goal, from amateurs to top athletes. With this, we break the idea that sports nutrition is only relevant to bodybuilders and top athletes.”