Finding the right endorsers & mixing the right proteins are part of winning in sports nutrition game, say experts

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image © iStockPhoto / Lecic
Image © iStockPhoto / Lecic

Related tags: Sports nutrition, Nutrition, Metabolism

Opportunities abound in the growing sports nutrition market, speakers on NIU’s recent forum told listeners. The forum, available on demand, covered topics of marketing, formulation and label transparency.

Analyst Chris Schmidt from Euromonitor led things off with an assessment of the market. His figures put the overall market at $10.6 billion in 2015 with an 8% CAGR through 2020. Another striking feature of the market is that the growth is global, Schmidt said, with opportunities spread pretty evenly in emerging markets and more mature ones as well.

One company that is taking full advantage of the market is Denver, CO-based MusclePharm, one of the fastest growing brands in the business. The company was founded in 2008 by former NFL player Brad Pyatt, now CEO, who has helped the brand grow to the point where it expects more than $200 million in sales for the full year 2015. The company has seen such meteoric growth by pursuing a strategy of high-profile athlete endorsements.  The company has signed such big names as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods and NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  But Pyatt said just having a name is not enough.

“We’ve seen that not all athlete endorsements have been successful. The important thing is that the product has to be authentic to that athlete or that person,”​ Pyatt said.  In other words, the consumer has to be able to trust in the story that the athlete has used the product and it has helped his or her performance in their particular pursuit. Having a marathon runner or a size 0 actress endorse a strength product wouldn’t cut it in Pyatt’s view.

Athlete endorsements, while beneficial, don’t come cheap.  Pyatt said MusclePharm has pursued a carefully calibrated strategy, where a plethora of endorsements have been used early in the brand’s history to boost sales and awareness and to help broaden the distribution footprint. Now, like the stages of a rocket, those relationships will start to fall away.

“I think you’ll see us do fewer of them going forward,”​ Pyatt said.

Another speaker, Prof. Rick Kreider from Texas A&M University, said that while protein is still the name of the game in the sports nutrition market, formulators and consumers alike are becoming more sophisticated in their approach. It’s not just hitting a number, such as 20 grams a serving, but is more about mixing protein types and delivery times to best support muscle performance during an event or workout or, especially after, Kreider said.  The research shows mixing protein sources is the best way to go, he said.

“Minimizing catabolism (muscle breakdown) is the new trend,” ​Kreider said.

The 800-lb gorilla in the sports nutrition room is the propensity for some formulators to play over the line and use ingredients of questionable provenance or those that are outright illegal.  The way around this is to carefully qualify your vendors and to rely on the certifications, such as NSF Qualified for Sport or Informed Choice, said Mark Wright, CEO of Clackamas, OR-based contract manufacturer Health Wright Products, Inc.

“We have found that there are some vendors we just can’t work with,” ​Wright told listeners.

The speakers on the NutraIngredients-USA Trends in Sports Nutrition​ Forum​ were:


Mark Wright​ is President & Co-Founder of Health Wright Products, which focused on the encapsulation market. Since 1995, Mark Wright has led HWP on an intentional growth pattern, building its operations to the point where HWP successfully manages the needs of more than 75 active brands and thousands of unique formulas, with room for more.


Brad Pyatt​ is the CEO, Chairman and Founder of Muscle Pharm. Brad founded the company in 2008 after playing professional football for seven years. He spent the majority of his career with the Indianapolis Colts and has firsthand experience with the taking of supplements to better performance. His background in Kinesiology and Exercise Science coupled with knowledge he acquired from his mentor, renowned sports nutrition doctor Eric Serrano served as the cornerstone of MusclePharm.


Dr Richard Kreider​ is Professor of Health & Kinesiology at Texas A&M University. Richard has conducted numerous studies on nutrition and exercise and has published three books, over 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, over 400 research abstracts, and 150 health and fitness related articles. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM); an active member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a co-founder, board member and Fellow of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; founding Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and Board Member of the American Kinesiology Association.


Chris Schmidt​ is Industry Analyst – Consumer Health at Euromonitor International. Chris monitors financial and brokerage reports; company disclosures and industry developments to track the performance of the largest, most dynamic players in the Consumer Health arena. His work is a resource and point of comparison for the company’s expansive network of in-country analysts.  Chris Schmidt graduated Cum Laude from Northwestern University.

The event is supported by the following leading nutritional ingredient suppliers:


Sustamine​ (Kyowa Hakko): The only GRAS L-Alanyl-L-Glutamine ingredient that can: enhance electrolyte and water absorption in the intestines; stimulate glycogen synthesis; inhibit muscle protein breakdown; promote the synthesis of muscle protein; and also stimulate the immune system. Sustamine is an ultra-pure ingredient in a unique dipeptide form for quick absorption.


Natreon, Inc​: A developer of novel compounds extracted from the traditional botanicals of Ayurvedic medicine. The company has created a broad portfolio of products and technologies with compelling intellectual property, including highly purified shilajit (one of the most important Ayurvedic remedies) - PrimaVie, Phyllanthus emblica​ (the superfruit Indian gooseberry) – Capros, and Withania somnifera​ (Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng) – Sensoril.


Cluster Dextrin​ (Glico): Ezaki Glico produces Cluster Dextrin using a proprietary enzyme derivation process to yield a cluster-structured glucose polymer. The ingredient is said to have three primary attributes: high solubility, fast gastric emptying time, and its ability to enhance stamina by managing blood glucose.


Sabinsa​: A manufacturer, supplier and marketer of herbal extracts, cosmeceuticals, minerals, dietary supplements and specialty fine chemicals for the nutritional, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. For the past 25 years, Sabinsa has brought to market more than 100 standardized botanical extracts, several with clinical studies in conjunction with prestigious institutions in support of these products. 

On demand

To listen to the forum on demand, click here​.

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