“Since the latter part of the pandemic years, the sports nutrition category has been the strongest area of growth at The Vitamin Shoppe, driven by a wide-scale return to gyms, the outdoors, and fitness routines,” Muriel Gonzalez, president at The Vitamin Shoppe, told NutraIngredients-USA.
This year, the report highlighted energy drinks, hydration formulas, and creatine as leading categories based on data compiled from The Vitamin Shoppe’s in-store and online sales, consumer survey responses, and industry-wide insights from market research firm SPINS.
Energy drinks in their prime
Caffeinated energy drink sales have skyrocketed, according to the report, jumping over 40% at The Vitamin Shoppe in the first four months of the year in an energy and sports drinks market that grew 12.6% in the 12 months ending March 2023 to reach $12 billion in sales.
This increase has been mostly fueled by celebrity and influencer endorsements, excitement around flavor and branding innovations, and marketplace trends, with big names like YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI (PRIME), Mr. Olympia Classic Physique champion Chris Bumstead (BUM Energy), and musician Jack Harlow (PHOCUS) stepping into the space. Brands GHOST (with FaZe Clan) and G FUEL (with Tyler “Ninja” Blevin) continue to raise the profile of their energy formulations in the booming esports industry.
“Since 2021, we’ve had over 20 high-profile launches from major brands in the energy drink category, including PRIME Energy, which was our top new launch of 2022 and will more than double sales in 2023,” said Jack Gayton, The Vitamin Shoppe’s divisional vice president of merchandising. (PRIME sales include both its hydration formulas and caffeinated energy drinks.)
Hydration skewing younger
Hydration products – whether packaged as ready-to-drink, powders, tablets, or stick packs – have also seen a considerable spike in sales. The report noted that although these functional beverages have traditionally targeted “exceptionally active individuals like athletes and people with medical conditions”, data now shows that new, younger consumers are driving the market.
One palpable example is the social media-hyped PRIME Hydration phenomenon that had children clamoring for the sell-out blend of electrolytes, BCAAs, B vitamins, and coconut water in Blue Raspberry, Grape, Orange, Lemon Lime, Fruit Punch, and Ice Pop flavors earlier this year.
Other top players include Bare Performance Nutrition, True Athlete, BodyTech, and GHOST, which continue to compete alongside new launches like Liquid I.V. packets, Liquid Labs packets, and new flavors from Nuun sport electrolyte tablets.
Industry-wide, SPINS reported 68% growth in the category in the 12 months ending March 2023, following 168% growth the previous year.
Sports nutrition and beyond
The sports nutrition category continues to trend but increasingly beyond the gym as more and more consumers shake off pandemic mode and resume or take up active lifestyles with extra vigor.
In addition to targeted workout supplements like proteins, pre-workouts, and creatine, the report highlighted that traditional sports nutrition brands are responding to consumer demand for balance, recovery, and overall wellbeing by incorporating super greens powders, nootropics, stress support, immunity boosters, multivitamins, and joint support into their product lines.
This prompted The Vitamin Shoppe to create a new merchandise concept in December 2022 called Fit Lifestyle, which assembles these whole-body wellness products into a one-stop-shop display.
The creatine explosion
Within the sports nutrition space but with enough explosive growth (up 120% over the past year in the U.S.) to stand alone on this year’s top-trend list is creatine. The Vitamin Shoppe noted that the much-studied supplement and longtime favorite of athletes for muscle building “has found fresh popularity on social media, which has delivered a big base of new fans and users”.
“The category is attracting new demographics, like women and older consumers, who are using supplements to fuel a generally active lifestyle rather than just muscle-building or going to the gym,” Gonzalez said. “New customers are learning that supplements like creatine can support healthy aging and brain function, while combatting muscle loss in older individuals – something we celebrated on National Creatine Day on July 9.”
The Vitamin Shoppe’s creatine sales were up over 160% in 2022 and another 23% through April of this year, with BodyTech Creatine Monohydrate powder and capsules leading the way.
In the mood for magnesium
Last but not least is the “mood mineral” magnesium, which SPINS reported saw a 12% increase in sales for the 12 months ending March 2023.
The Vitamin Shoppe attributed its successful magnesium sales to the cost effectiveness of its private-label magnesium glycinate brand (+59% for the 12 months ending April 2023) and to viral TikTok content that spread awareness about the mineral’s many benefits.
This also aligns with the overall increase in market demand for stress and sleep support – two categories that have emerged as priorities since the pandemic. According to a complementary consumer survey conducted by The Vitamin Shoppe, 55% of consumers use a sleep aid of some sort, with magnesium coming in second at 48%, just behind melatonin (54%) and ahead of CBD/cannabis (37%).