The European sports nutrition market offers promising growth potential to manufacturers of sports product ingredients, with the market forecast to grow by 8.4 per cent between 2002-2009, according to a new report from market research analysts Frost & Sullivan.
Companies supplying these ingredients should actively help to promote the benefits alongside the sports nutrition product manufacturers in a bid to develop the market further, it advises.
The report, 'European Market for Sports Nutrition Ingredients', studies the key sport nutrition product ingredients used within the market between 1999 and 2009, including soy protein, whey protein, casein and caseinates, creatine and carnitine.
It notes that the sports nutrition market has changed in recent years from being a niche sector of specialist sports products to supplying mass-market demand. Increased consumer awareness and lifestyle changes have driven this change, according to the analysts, and while trends in Europe have largely followed the booming market in the USA, the definition of sports nutrition is constantly changing.
One of the key challenges facing the market is the European market structure itself, claims the report. This is due to the regional, economic, cultural and legislative differences within the region. Products therefore that have had success in the USA need to address these factors when entering the European market.
Another key challenge is the increasing blur between the boundary of sports nutrition products and consumer countline goods, finds the report. "The sports nutrition industry must continue to satisfy the demand from athletes for performance improving products and market them accordingly, however in order to maximise sales, penetration of the mainstream market is also essential.
"However, the industry must ensure each target market is satisfied to prevent alienation from a particular sector - if products are perceived to be too generalised, this could negatively affect existing consumers."
Some major drivers of growth within market include development of innovative, convenient products, media coverage, such as sponsorships and endorsements and movement into the mainstream market.
The introduction of a more mainstream consumer in this market has put emphasis on different priorities towards the product, according to the report. Increasing focus on convenience has been reflected in the products now available such as 'ready to drink' liquid supplements and bars, and new delivery systems including gels, sweets and gums.
One of the restraints highlighted by the report was the limited consumer understanding of high price to performance ratio. With the move into the mainstream category, the issue of taste and texture is also a key issue.
Delivery systems for sports products are also changing. While still in the development stage, bars are gaining market share rapidly because of their advantages in convenience. However, because bars are entering more mainstream consumer markets, for example, competing with chocolate bars, companies need to reinforce the performance 'message' of the product to distinguish it from other bar products.
Packaging is a key driver within the energy drinks sector, seen in the development of pouches and drinks in cans for consumption away from home. Multipacks are also becoming popular to provide better value for money to the consumer.
But further development is needed in taste in order to sustain growth in this sector. Functional drinks, which for example, are dominated by protein ingredients suffer from the poor taste profile proteins exhibit, finds the report.
The report recommends that manufacturers adopt a pan-European approach to branding and marketing. "At present there is no Europe-wide regulatory body governing the use and definition of sports nutrition products, but this should not stop attempts at a more consistent approach. Alternative ways of promotion and marketing must be developed," it claims.
The report also stresses the need to develop and manage niche areas and the key role of innovation. Scientific research, partnerships and distribution strategies and taste and texture are all key to the success of the market.