The sports nutrition market is generally the supplement industry’s first adopter and first mover of cutting-edge products. This history bodes especially well today for the entire industry. Sports nutrition, once a smaller niche market of elite athletes and sports teams, is now the fastest growing and leading supplement market due to the entry of active mainstream consumers seeking healthy living and fitness trends driven by Millennials and Gen Xers as well as seniors bent on maintaining mobility and independence.
Now relabeled the “sports nutrition/active nutrition” market—with emphasis on the slash!—the category is embracing a wider array of supplement ingredients that benefit and lengthen physical strength, endurance and dexterity. Dosage delivery forms are now a critical part of chemistry for creating inventive products forward-looking consumers will buy. Innovative delivery forms can meet a unique subset of consumer requirements ranging from convenience to consumption pleasure to preservation and/or enhancement of ingredient effectiveness.
Sports nutrition sales revenue rose from US$7.3 billion in 2011 to $13.6 billion in 2017, and is expected to continue growing at a fast rate (7.9 percent compound annual growth rate [CAGR] from 2016 to 2021), according to Euromonitor International. The United States has represented 60 percent of the value over the past decade.
The market’s new crowd wants supplements that will help them gain more energy and endurance, lose more weight, feel better, perform better, recover better and relieve muscle soreness. They look for products to support joints, bones and the cardiovascular system. They also want to build and maintain muscle.
While sports powders, drinks and bars are the most popular delivery forms for protein—which comprise the bulk of sales in sports nutrition—other delivery forms for a wide range of supplements are continuing to fuel demand.
According to the National Marketing Institute’s (NMI) 2018 Supplements, Over-the-Counter, and RX Database (SORD) study (data collected in 2017), capsules are not only the top delivery form for the population (41 percent), but also for the sports nutrition supplement crowd—beating out tablets (second), softgels (third) and other novelty delivery systems.
Versatility is the core appeal of the capsule as a delivery form. Not only can it meet clean label claims, but it can be neater (no messy packages from sport bars), more convenient (slides right into purses, bags and pockets) and easier to consume (no mixing and stirring of powders).
A variety of innovative hard-capsule technologies also can meet delivery challenges of sports nutrition ingredients. These technologies can bolster stability, bioavailability, and targeted and/or timed release—all beneficial to promoting the effectiveness of a supplement ingredient. Some can also mask odors and bitter tastes, which can support compliance of a supplement regimen.
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