Research from Arla Foods Ingredients highlights trends in sports nutrition

By Kavitha Sivasubramaniam contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Arla, Arla foods uk, Arla foods ingredients, Sports nutrition

Mainstream consumers want protein to help with sports nutrition, according to a global study by Arla Foods Ingredients.

Of the 12,000 people surveyed by the whey solutions provider, 43% said they seek out added protein when selecting food and beverages to aid exercise. This rose to more than half (52%) among 18–29-year-olds.

Understanding attitudes

The results indicate that interest in protein is increasing, with almost a third (31%) claiming their use had risen in the past two years compared to just 7% whose usage had dropped in the same period.

Troels Nørgaard Laursen, Director of Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients, says: “Now that the sports nutrition has moved into the mainstream it has become increasingly important for manufacturers in this category to understand consumer attitudes to exercise, nutrition and key ingredients such as protein.

“We have been able to identify three distinct consumer types, giving some useful pointers in how producers can promote protein to these different segments.”

Dubbed ‘The Enthusiasts’, the first group strenuously exercise a minimum of three times a week, often choosing food and drinks designed to aid athletic performance. In many areas they score above average, for example two-thirds actively search for added-protein sports nutrition products and 93% have a strong interest in protein.

The second cohort, ‘Easy Health’ consumers, have a fairly active lifestyle. This is balanced with a nutritional interest, and they are likely to follow popular health trends. They also opt for foods rich in protein to support sports recovery but are unlikely to choose functionality over taste. ​ ​

The final group, ‘Healthy Feel Goods’ focus on how diet affects health but are not focused on exercise. They are likely to favour drinks including as waters, smoothies and kefir because they believe in their health benefits (59%) and want drinks that enhance their overall diets with vitamins and nutrients (56%). ​

Different priorities

Anne Høst Stenbæk, Head of Marketing at Arla Foods Ingredients, adds: “A high proportion of enthusiasts say they make a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet and they choose food to improve their athletic performance. They are willing to give up on both taste and convenience to get there, so for them it’s all about functionality.

“In contrast, easy health consumers agree that an active lifestyle is very important in contributing to overall health but this group is not willing to compromise on taste, so manufacturers would do well to target them differently.”

She explains that while those in the third group – ‘healthy feel goods’ – are not focused on exercise, their interest in nutrition is high, perhaps higher than those in the other groups.

Høst Stenbæk concludes: “They are highly receptive to documented health claims so focusing on protein’s health benefits as a super ingredient is a good strategy for manufacturers.

“This group does not necessarily look for food which is directly linked to being active, but they do show a strong interest in protein for things like energy, weight management, and mental energy.”

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