Paradigm shift in perception of men’s fitness sparks new opportunities for bone and joint category

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Men today are taking part in physical activities beyond muscle-building. ©Getty Images
Men today are taking part in physical activities beyond muscle-building. ©Getty Images

Related tags Men's Health Fitness Sports nutrition

Consumers are recognising that health and fitness goes beyond having a muscular physique, and are increasingly seeking products that help improve joint mobility, body functionality and overall health, says an industry expert.

Men today are less focused on muscle-building and ripped looks, and more on holistic health that encompasses not only physical fitness, but also mental well-being.

“The industry used to be driven by the craze of jacked bodies, where people mainly did weight training for faster results. There was a lack of understanding of the body and of nutraceuticals consumption.

“Men are now paying more attention to parameters such as strength, stamina, muscle endurance, immunity, and bone and joint health. Especially after the pandemic, they are making better-informed choices and taking part in physical activities ranging from yoga to virtual sports. There is also greater awareness of supplementation with macro- and micronutrients,” ​said Sandeep Gupta, founder and CEO of Expert Nutraceutical Advocacy Council (ENAC) India, at Growth Asia Summit 2023.

With advancements in exercise science as well as nutrition and supplementation research, there is a growing understanding of how different types of training and dietary habits contribute to overall health and fitness.

According to Gupta, there is increasing use of protein products and dietary supplements in India and across Asia-Pacific (APAC).

“Instead of pursuing short-term aesthetics, individuals are setting goals that support their health and well-being across different stages of life. For instance, building strength, endurance and flexibility allows them to perform everyday tasks more efficiently. In addition, the ‘lean body approach’ promotes fitness practices that can be maintained over time to reduce the risk of burnout, injury, and metabolic imbalances.

“Men have started to learn that nutrition is an essential way of managing various health markers. While there are varying areas of concern throughout the lifespan, bone and joint health as well as eye health are common across all age groups. These are the categories that companies should focus on and innovate in.”

Emerging trends

Gupta believes that product innovations have to be results-oriented, in which ingredients play a key role.

What ingredients have been clinically studied and trialled in human subjects, and what are the outcomes of these studies? These are very important when manufacturers are selecting ingredients, and conceptualising and formulating products.

“You can’t go about it blindly; you need to choose ingredients that consumers would feel a difference when using the product. That’s where repeat purchases come from. Branded ingredients backed by clinical studies have changed the facet of the nutraceutical industry. Compared to five years ago, there is much greater demand for such ingredients.”

In addition, Gupta said that consumers today are looking for “authentic and clean ingredients” to ensure that they get bang for their buck.

“When consumers spend a certain amount of money on a product, they want results. We have seen a handful of brands in India that are trending because they have built a reputation for their certifications of safety, efficacy and quality.”

Specifically, omega-3, collagen, essential amino acids, glutathione, lutein, zeaxanthin, and ginseng were cited as examples with high rates of consumption in APAC.

For bone and joint health in particular, astaxanthin was already popular among youths in India, and it is now gaining strong acceptance among the seniors. 

“The use of astaxanthin is growing fast and significantly in APAC. In fact, it has beaten many traditional antioxidant nutraceuticals in the market due to its association with a wide spectrum of health benefits [including skin anti-ageing, improvement of exercise performance, prevention of muscle injury, and joint pain relief].”

However, companies looking to enter the Indian market “have to be very careful” about claims and compliance with regulations.

“Indian consumers are sensitive about claims. Certifications and innovative presentations are paramount for this market, with quality and efficacy being good differentiators. Even if your ingredient may not be superior innovation-wise, don’t make fake claims. If you make certain claims but your product does not deliver, consumers will run away from your brand.​”

Going forward, the integration of nutra products with alternative wellness therapies, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, laser therapy and red light therapy, and virtual fitness technologies is said to shape the next generation of “holistic approach to unlock the body’s full potential”.

“Alternative therapies, often characterised by their innovative approaches and emphasis on prevention, aim to enhance overall health and vitality. It should also be noted that the virtual fitness technology market was valued at a little over USD6m in 2019, but after the pandemic, it was projected to reach USD59m by 2027.

“Currently, these belong to separate spaces. In future, nutrition and nutraceutical companies should not just focus on selling their ingredients, products or brands, but also integrating with the right platform to bring about synergistic benefits for consumers,” ​Gupta concluded.

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