Special Edition: Sports & Active Nutrition

Hydration, pre-workouts & creatine the stars of the 2023 sports nutrition market

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© vovashevchuk / Getty Image
© vovashevchuk / Getty Image

Related tags sports Sports nutrition Sports nutrition sector Creatine hydration pre-workout active nutrition performance nutrition

After a challenging few years during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sports and active nutrition category is surging, with hydration, pre-workouts, and creatine crushing it with huge sales growth.

The whole performance nutrition supplements category grew by an impressive 34% for the 52 weeks ending August 13, 2023, according to new data from SPINS provided to NutraIngredients-USA.

Leading the charge is hydration/ electrolyte supplements, formulations that are dominated by ready-to-drink, powders, tablets, or stick packs. Hydration grew by an eye watering 52% to exceed $450 million in sales, said SPINS.

One of the reasons for this growth, according to The Vitamin Shoppe’s Health & Wellness Trends Report​ is that the category is skewing younger. 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. 

Speaking at NutraIngredients-USA’s Sports & Active Nutrition Summit in February 2023, Ken Huntly, Senior Director of Merchandising, GNC, said that hydration is one of those categories that for a long time, was really focused on a handful of brands.

“Over the last couple years, we’ve seen tons of entries from a brand and product standpoint into that space focus on not just hydration in the sense of sports nutrition, but hydration in the sense of a multitude of end uses and benefits that are associated with being well-hydrated,” he told attendees in San Diego. “So, it's really grown exponentially in terms of the number of brands, the number of products and the end-use benefits of those products related to hydration and what they're targeted to solve for.”

Top players include Bare Performance Nutrition, True Athlete, BodyTech, GHOST, and Nuun. Anthony Iannello, director of brand marketing, Nuun Hydration, told NutraIngredients-USA’s Danielle Masterson​ at Expo West that the brand stands out through its proactive positioning.

“The way that we're approaching hydration now is a little bit different than maybe we have historically in terms of thinking about hydration proactively as opposed to reactively,” said Iannello.

“Hydration is a daily needstate for consumers and I think it's always been positioned as a reactive or a seasonal category, but the reality is that hydration is vital for everyday life. And so Nuun is now trying to position hydration as a proactive choice every single day and in that way, we feel it allows us to stand out in a category that is primarily been seen as reactive, you know, about replenishing or replacing or rehydrating, [whereas] Nuun is all about proactively hydrating.”

Pre-workouts & creatine

The second largest sub-category within performance nutrition is pre-workouts, which grew almost 34% to almost $350 million in the 52 weeks ending August 13, 2023, said SPINS.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that 2020 was not a good year for pre-workouts as gyms closed and workout habits changed during that first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest growth rates in the performance nutrition category were recorded by Creatine, which posted 114% year-on-year growth for the 52 weeks ending August 13, 2023. The category was only worth $23 million a year earlier and $14 million by the same point in 2021, said SPINS.

Looking at creatine from a calendar year perspective, sales were $34 million for 2022, compared to $15 million for 2021. With over $33 million reported already for 2023, SPINS is predicting the category could reach almost $60 million by the end of December.

The creatine boom should not come as a surprise since many have been talking about it for a while. It was another of the topics picked out by The Vitamin Shoppe earlier in the year, which 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,” Muriel Gonzalez, President of The Vitamin Shoppe, told NutraIngredients-USA​. “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.”

Sports & Active Nutrition Summit 2024

NutraIngredients-USA's Sports & Active Nutrition Summit returns to the beautiful Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego, February 12-14, 2024. 

Bringing together industry and research professionals in the sports and active nutrition space, the Sports & Active Nutrition Summit bridges the gaps between cutting-edge science, business strategy, and key regulatory developments.

The themes for the 2024 event include: The Evolving Sports Nutrition Market; The Regulatory Landscape: Clouds on the horizon or a bright new dawn?; Disruptive Tech – from wearables to A.I. for Ingredient Innovation; Women’s Health; Recovery; The Microbiome – an Untapped Opportunity; and a candid look at the category's Innovative Ingredients. 

For more information and to register, please click HERE​. 

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