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Mainstreaming of sports nutrition spells out new possibilities for performance ingredients

2019-12-06 09:17 Friday


The landscape of the sports nutrition market is shifting into a more inclusive category that comprises consumers at all levels of activity. Within this broadening sphere, nutritional ingredient companies are leveraging demands for convenient, functional foods and beverages that complement busy lifestyles. NutritionInsight speaks to segment leaders to showcase how companies are overcoming flavor and mouthfeel challenges, while catering to clean label demands, in NPD targeting athletes and "weekend warriors" alike.

"Sports nutrition was historically a market aimed largely at athletes and bodybuilders, but it's very much in the mainstream now. Casual consumers increasingly see products like protein drinks and bars as a quick and easy way to improve their health and provide satiety, so they're often enjoyed as an on-the-go meal replacement," says Joe Katterfield, Health and Performance Nutrition Development Manager at Arla Foods Ingredients (AFI).

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"Weekend warriors" is the term often used to outline consumers who seek functional health ingredients and nutritional support for their busy, active lifestyles. “Such consumers are also looking for cleaner solutions that reflect their personal values," explains Stephane Vouche, Marketing Manager, Consumer Health & Nutrition, Lonza.

Expanding at 7.8 percent CAGR, the global sports nutrition market is predicted to be worth US$26.9 billion by 2024, according to FrieslandCampina. “We expect the demand for performance-focused dairy ingredients will grow exponentially alongside it," comments Floris Daamen, Segment Marketing Manager Performance Nutrition at FrieslandCampina.

"The food supplement space is moving more quickly than it ever has, fueled by advances in technology. It's an exciting time for the industry, as more and more manufacturers create uniquely innovative, efficacious solutions," highlights Vouche.

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Lacprodan ISO.Water was innovated to overcome taste and mouthfeel issues in protein waters.

Wave of protein popularity

In recent months, AFI has launched a range of innovative new whey protein solutions across different categories. While whey protein hydrolysate is not new on the market, the ingredient still presents huge potential – as it is hydrolyzed, or "pre-digested," the peptides are smaller so they're more quickly absorbed, getting to the muscles faster. Opportunities for innovation its innovation, however, have been limited by bitter taste.

"If you look at the market trends Innova Market Insights is predicting for 2020, it's clear how well our whey protein ingredients fit modern consumer expectations. The 'Eat Pretty' trend is about consuming food and drink that improves physical appearance, for example, and 'The Right Bite' involves people coping with busy lifestyles looking for products that are nutritious but also easy and convenient," he adds.

In the space of convenient, functional sports nutrition products, innovation around protein water piqued consumer interest over the last year. Lacprodan ISO.Water was recently launched by AFI, offering manufacturers a solution to delivering clear protein waters that overcome the common issues with taste and mouthfeel.

"Clear protein waters are a really convenient way for consumers to get protein nutrition, but it can be hard for manufacturers to overcome issues with bitter taste and dry mouthfeel. With Lacprodan ISO.Water, manufacturers get high-quality whey protein isolate without the unpleasant taste or mouthfeel, allowing them to develop enjoyable drinks with flavor options that previously wouldn’t have been possible," says Katterfield of AFI.

Addressing these demands of clean label, convenience and functionality, FrieslandCampina has innovated Nutri Whey Isolate Clear, which offers a high (90 percent) protein content and a clean, neutral taste and aroma, making it ideal for ready-to-drink (RTD) clear water drinks or other clear functional beverages.

The Dutch company has also introduced Nutri Whey Native, a native whey protein, and Micelate Prestige, a native micellar casein isolate. The two ingredients are both derived directly from high-quality milk and purified using innovative micro-filtration techniques. "These gentle treatments allow dairy proteins to remain in an intact, native form, which gives the premium differentiation that 73 percent of elite athletes insist upon. While Nutri Whey Native delivers an immediate post-workout nutrient boost, Micelate Prestige supports muscle protein synthesis during overnight recovery," outlines Daamen of FrieslandCampina.

Lonza's latest product development in the sports nutrition space is crowned by its new MuscleGuard formulation. Currently available to the US market only, this solution offers a combination of four hero ingredients: Carnipure L-Carnitine, vitamin D and both creatine and leucine in "uniquely low dosages." Through research it has been demonstrated to support a 63 percent increase in muscle strength, mass and activity in comparison to a placebo.

Research also indicates that the MuscleGuard formula can support active individuals in reaching their health and fitness goals pre-, intra- and post-workout, enabling consumers to receive the right support when it is needed most.

Meanwhile, emerging market segments, such as esports (video gaming) continue to expand the boundaries of performance nutrition. "Esports may not be what is typically perceived as a 'sport,' but nevertheless require high levels of physical and mental stamina for sustained performance over many hours of gameplay. For manufacturers, this creates an opportunity to put forward nutritional solutions that enable longer, modified release. This is an area of the market that's still growing rapidly, with plenty of room for innovation," says Vouche.

Targeting the gaming community specifically, MASS Health was featured at Food Matters Live, held in London, UK, from November 19 to 20. The new company showcased its Knight Energy Boost, touted as formulated with active ingredients to help enhance gamers' ability and experience. The product intends to provide well balanced energy, increased endurance, enhanced reactions and sharper focus.

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Knight Energy Boost by MASS Health, featured at Food Matters Live.

Future of functional ingredients

Clear protein waters have huge scope for expansion, notes Katterfield of AFI. "One other area of interest for the protein industry is fermentation. By pre-fermenting a milk protein isolate or concentrate, it can decrease lactose content and the process also creates the potential for beneficial by-products.”

"Another interesting possibility we've looked at is in combining dairy with plant and vegetable ingredients. Arla amba is doing a lot of research into that and we think it has a lot of potential – hybridization is another big trend that Innova Market Insights picked out for 2020," he explains.

Looking into future applications of Lonza's products, Vouche comments, "We're excited about the sustained potential of Lonza's Carnipure L-Carnitine ingredient, which is one of the key components in our new MuscleGuard formulation. The Carnipure L-Carnitine ingredient plays a role in transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondrial matrix for beta-oxidation.

"By enabling the use of fat as an energy source in this way, this ingredient can significantly decrease recovery time post-exercise, while also supporting muscle comfort and increasing blood flow. At the moment, we're exploring opportunities to utilize the Carnipure L-Carnitine ingredient's wide variety of benefits in innovative new sports nutrition applications," he adds.

On the whole, trends that prevail through the whole food and beverage industry are extending into sports nutrition, and it is now a priority for manufacturers to help customers create new formulations which meet those needs.

"Consumers are taking a more proactive approach to researching ingredients and health issues from a wide variety of sources. This creates an opportunity for differentiation in the sports nutrition market from a claims, ingredients and products perspective, concludes Daamen of FrieslandCampina.

Source: NutritionInsight

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