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Clean label trend drives innovation in sports nutrition sector

2019-07-12 10:06 Friday

Over the years, sports nutrition has been adversely affected by perceptions that the quality of ingredients, and the addition of artificial additives and flavorings, cannot always be trusted. For some, the source of products, and the generic nature of items such as protein powders or energy bars, have long raised concern.

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It may be no surprise to learn, then, that many innovative companies are taking advantage of this uneasy mindset by creating products and brands that stress their clean credentials and emphasize the natural content of sports nutrition offerings.

According to the latest report from Lumina Intelligence, the future of sports nutrition is in clean label products, as companies work harder to improve their quality credentials and bring their appeal to a wider audience. In the next few years, big changes are anticipated in the sector.

The publication comes from an analysis of the development of clean label claims using data gathered in 2018 from over 4,000 bestselling products on online retail channels in over twenty countries, as well as drawing on customer reviews and ratings to assess customer satisfaction and engagement.

“There is a definite hunger for clean sports nutrition in the market; it’s about hitting the right place at the right time. Everyone is looking at plant-based right now, for its vegan, ethical and clean image, but for consumers it is more than that. It is about being clean through and through,” said a spokesperson.

Growing appeal to mass market

Looking at the more mass-market targeted product formats such as powder supplements and workout aids, these generally have more clean label claims on their packaging. Accordingly, as brands look to achieve a mass market appeal with pre-workout blends, they are starting to reformulate to appeal to the health conscious consumer.

Some 18 percent of pre-workout blends make some form of clean label claim, and this number is expected to increase in the next few years. By morphing a brand, from being workout-specific into something that can be used as a more general nootropic supplement for consumption any time of day, they are targeting to a broader audience.

This audience could be a particular niche such as e-gamers or online streaming viewers. Producers are embracing the more mainstream format to rival traditional energy drinks, and in some cases are appearing on supermarket shelves which position them alongside more familiar food categories.

As clean label use increases, brands will look for more and more differentiating factors, according to the report.

Customer engagement

The analysis breaks down clean label claims into those that are specialized for demographics, for example those drink markets which require natural colors and flavorings, or for people with particular allergies or intolerances.

Those products which have a specialized claim on their labels were found to achieve a far higher number of reviews that those with a broad claim and more than double the number of reviews than those with no clean label claim at all.

International perspective

North America and Australia currently top the charts for regions with the highest proportion of clean label sports nutrition products, but the trend is increasingly being picked up by consumers in Asia.

Clean label trends are expected to move eastward in the space of the next five to ten years, driven by the Olympics 2020 taking place in Tokyo, and concerns regarding banned substances in sports. Also, as the current generation ages, they will follow the concerns of their parents who raised them and who instilled green-thinking into their habits.

Pushing up prices

The report also shows that clean label products are priced on average 26 percent more than products which make no claims. Furthermore, China tops the chart for those countries where consumers will pay higher premiums for clean label items.

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