The esports industry generated revenues of $1.08 billion in 2021, up 14.5% year-on-year and projected to reach $1.6 billion by 2024, according to the Newzoo Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report. The games market insights company also predicted that a global esports audience of 465 million will grow to 577 million in the same period, with an even wider audience if including live-streaming coverage.
Enter an influx of supplement brands that promise to deliver the energy, focus, endurance, manual dexterity, accuracy, mood, reaction time and actions per minute required for peak practice and tournament performance.
Formulating for the cognitive athlete
Sugary, caffeine-charged energy drinks have long been a staple in the video gaming community, but competitive esports athletes – much like traditional athletes – are now looking to functional products to stay in shape and protect from injury.
“Because of the sedentary nature of the sport and accompanying poor posture, esports athletes are likely to have musculoskeletal injuries of the neck, back and upper extremities,” a 2019 study published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine noted, adding that gamers are also prone to metabolic disturbances, mental health issues and social behavior disorders.
First movers in the space, however, have chosen to focus on enhanced cognitive performance, formulating with powerful nootropics, vitamins, amino acids and citicoline, along with natural caffeine for a crash-free lift. Other emerging products feature collagen peptides for “gamer’s thumb” and lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health and blue light protection.
Anchor ingredients and formulations may vary, but all those companies born of gaming culture agree that one ingredient is key: authenticity.
For gamers. By gamers.
“There are seemingly dozens of brands entering the space almost every month,” Eric H., CMO at gaming supplement company ADVANCEDgg, told Nutra Ingredients-USA.
“The most authentic and endemic brands to gaming/esports/digital entertainment will have the most success. It’s really tough to be successful in gaming if the community doesn’t know who you are and thinks you’re in the space for the wrong reasons.”
The startup, “operated by gamers and experts in the dietary supplement industry”, introduced its flagship line FOCUS in 2018, featuring clinically proven cognitive performance enhancer NooLVL and a steadily increasing number of flavors. Eric H. reports 200% year-over-year growth since 2020 and says the brand is branching out into canned carbonated energy drinks and a hydration line, coming soon.
“Cultivating an authentic audience early on and then staying relevant as much as possible is da way!” he explained.
Category frontrunner G FUEL launched in 2012 as “The Official Energy Drink of Esports®” with partner and popular esports organization FaZe Clan. It continues to drop game-themed powders like the DOOM Eternal-inspired Spicy Demon’ade and a special-edition Crimson Tears (think action role-playing game Elden Ring). This year, its Fortune Blend and Plasma powders paired with the releases of Sony Pictures’ Uncharted and Morbius films, both adapted from video game franchises.
Other endemic companies with strong footholds include NOOB Energy for “tournament-ready performance” and GLHV Good Luck Have Fun for “that next level competitive edge”. Leading gaming lifestyle brand Razer added RESPAWN mental performance drink mixes to its “gamer-focused ecosystem of hardware, software and services” in 2019.
Traditional supplement companies get in the game
Despite warnings against misappropriating the metaverse, a growing number of traditional supplement players are taking their shot at the insular category. GHOST lifestyle sports nutrition brand, for example, made its entrée with GHOST Gamer in 2020 to a warm reception.
“The product has done amazing for us,” GHOST CEO Dan Lourenco told NutraIngredients-USA nine months after launch. “It was definitely one of the bright spots of 2020. And even bigger than the product is the community that we’ve built around the product has easily been the best part.”
The company, whose employees do game, soon secured a coveted partnership with popular video live-streaming service Twitch and has signed on as the official esports partner of health and wellness brand GNC.
Last year, Nature’s Bounty wellness brand introduced Brain HP Jelly Beans, a “cognitive health dietary supplement designed for gamers and esports pros” in partnership with several major professional esports organizations and influencers.
"I'm all about products that help me game better, but I also want to feel good about what ingredients I'm putting in my body,” Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf, the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Champion and Game Awards Gamer of the Year said at the launch.
“That's why I'm stoked to help launch Brain HP – it improves reaction time without the caffeine.”
Esports webinar to focus on meeting gamer demand
Please join us on April 28 with the gaming industry’s top experts. The webinar will explore how to get into the esports game by examining the state of the market, including what benefits gamers are seeking, how to deliver on these benefits, what the research says and how to translate that science into efficacious products. For more information and to register, click here.