Recovery and education offer opportunities and challenges for DS brands for US military personnel

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

US military personnel are big consumers of dietary supplements, with surveys showing over 60% regularly use the products, but dietary supplement brands have a big challenge when it comes to building loyalty: Education.

Speaking with us during the inaugural NutraIngredients-USA Sports Nutrition Summit in San Diego, Krista Austin, owner of Performance & Nutrition Coaching, explained that US military personnel are looking at sports nutrition products, particularly ones that enhance performance and promote gains in strength and endurance.

“The reason is that they are a population that is more active. Oftentimes their jobs do require a lot more physicality than the everyday civilian position. In addition, they place a huge emphasis on body weight and composition in order to be eligible for promotion as well as their physical fitness test scores,” ​she said. “So oftentimes, they know they are going to be judged on improvements by those very factors, so as a result you will see an increase in supplement use in this population.”

Austin currently serves as an industry consultant and performance specialist for professional and Olympic sport athletes and special operations forces. She was a research fellow for military research institutes, where she focused on dietary supplement use in the military population.

Brand loyal? High turnover

Austin added the biggest challenge for the dietary supplements industry is around educating our Warfighters. “They’re looking online, and they say, ‘what do I buy next?’ Often, the turnover of the actual supplements they’re using is really high because they don’t know if they’re working for them, so the more you can educate them and show them what does really work and give them evidence, then I think the better.”

“I think the opportunity is looking at the recovery aspects with them, because their recovery is different,” ​she added. “When they deploy, they’re going to undergo possible energy deprivation, they may not have access to protein sources that are clean, so they’re always going to be looking for supplements that will enhance that recovery, let them maintain their muscle mass – or at least the capacity of the muscle function – and so that’s where I think the opportunities are: To provide them with a safe and efficacious supplement for doing so.”

DS use

A 2016 paper published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism​ (Austin et al. Vol. 41, pp. 1217-1224) indicated that regular use of dietary supplements increased from 56% to 64% between 2006-7 and 2010-11, which was mostly driven by increasing use in soldiers aged between 18 and 24.

The use of protein supplements was found to increase 4% over the same four-year period, while combination product use increased 14%. A combination product was defined as a product containing a mixture of vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids. Significant increases in the use of individual vitamin and minerals, including iron, magnesium, selenium, and vitamins A, B6, B12, and D were also reported.

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