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Charting the rise of sports nutrition in Europe


At last week’s 2012 Sports & Performance Nutrition Conference, produced by Bridge2Food, a number of speakers addressed key issues facing the sports nutrition market across Europe and beyond.

An opening and introduction from Naomi Grant, R&D Head Adult Specialist Nutrition at GSK (Maxinutrition), noted the opportunity for taking sports nutrition to the mainstream. Naomi pointed to the diverse range of products available and how Maxinutrition is targeting core consumer groups.

This set the tone for the Business Track of the conference on Day 1, on Thursday 4 October. As conference organiser Bridge2Food noted, with the total market for sports and performance nutrition growing every year, it becomes more and more important to better position the category.

A presentation on European market trends and developments, by Gary Roethenbaugh at MultiSport Research and Gerard Klein Essink at Bridge2Food, showcased some category trends in Europe. This then turned to consumer research findings and a segmentation of endurance sport athletes. From the core endurance sport athlete through to the lifestyle athlete, MultiSport Research noted that there are similarities amongst triathletes in particular:

  • All triathletes can be seen to be embracing challenge, competition (both internal and external – i.e. against their own performances and those of others)
  • Endurance athletes, particularly those engaged in multisports, were recognised as being predominantly male with high levels of education and earning power
  • The rise in female participation in endurance sport was also highlighted; this would be expected to narrow the gender gap in the years to come
  • There is also very little room for ‘leisure’ or ‘casual’ participation amongst triathletes – making these highly driven athletes a key target audience for sports nutrition operators

Julian Wright, Marketing Manager at Reflex Nutrition, presented a challenge to the sports nutrition industry. Julian noted that to become mainstream, a product would need to be consumed by more than 50% of any given population. It was recognised that energy drinks would arguably be mainstream given the high levels of consumption – notably by those aged 16-24.

Julian noted that the generally high unit price of sports supplements could hold back sports nutrition overall in becoming a mainstream category in the years to come – even with the current high rates of growth. The imposition of VAT in the UK from 1 October 2012 was seen as a major challenge. This is coupled with the rising prices of whey protein, which have recently jumped by 17%. When combined with a rise in VAT, protein powders are therefore facing a 30-40% rise in retail prices in the coming months.

Kyle Rowe, Director of Buying at NBTY Europe, summarised the scale of NBTY’s business operations, which includes a range of sports nutrition brands and the leading UK health food retailers Holland & Barrett and GNC.

Kyle observed that not all retailers had to date imposed the VAT rise in applicable products in the UK and were therefore currently absorbing the VAT rise. He felt that half of the UK market has currently moved on price (adding 20% VAT) and the remainder had not. This was being watched closely.

Kyle felt that there was a limited amount of brand loyalty amongst consumers and that price was a key determining factor. He added that higher ingredient prices and other financial pressures, such as increased transportation costs, had brought about retail price inflation of 7-8% of the last two years.

Going forwards, it was argued that the customer could not bear further price rises and that NBTY would not put up prices for its retail customers. An environment of aggressive competition and ‘value engineering’ could therefore be expected in the months and years to come.

Also on the first day of the conference, a range of other speakers addressed a diverse number of issues facing the European sports nutrition industry. These were presented in the conference’s Business Track and Innovation Track:

Day 1 – Business Track

  • New trends & developments in the sport & weight management bars category – Roel van Dam, Sales Manager, VSI (The Netherlands)
  • Customer Centric Selling: managing customer needs in online and offline channels – Gino Goossens, Managing Director, GiMiScale (The Netherlands)
  • Challenges in combining a consumer brand with an ingredient brand – Oliver Schlomm, Product Manager & Roger Milenk, Managing Director, Squeezy Sports Nutrition (Germany)
  • Trends, developments and challenges in the Swedish market – Pierre Dahl, CEO, Budo & Fitness International (Sweden)

Day 1 – Innovation Track

  • Milk proteins for performance nutrition: The way forward – Jan Steijns, Corporate Nutrition Scientist, Center for Dairy Nutrition, FrieslandCampina DMV (The Netherlands)
  • New approaches in carbohydrate intake management for sports activities – Daniel König, Rehabilitative and Preventive Sports Medicine, Freiburg University (Germany)
  • A new boost to building muscle with pea protein – Audrey Taffin, Global Market Development Manager, Pea Protein Projects, Roquette (France)
  • Avoiding inadvertent doping – how safe are your supplements? – Catherine Judkins, Business Development Manager, HFL Sport Science (UK)

Day 2 of the conference brought together another diverse bunch of speakers…

Day 2 – Business Track

  • Worldwide trends in sport & performance nutrition – Florian Parthe, Account Manager, Innova Market Insights (The Netherlands)
  • Managing your future business in view of the global protein ingredient market fluctuations – Kevin Bellamy, Senior Global Dairy Analyst, Rabobank International (The Netherlands)
  • Successful social media strategies in Germany – Thomas Knüwer, Managing Director, kpunktnull (Germany)
  • Growing the sports nutrition market: Role of Lutein in eye health and its impact on sports performance – Swen Wolfram, Global Technical Marketing Manager, DSM Nutritional Products (Switzerland)

During this session there was discussion on the impact of whey prices on sports nutrition. Coupled with the addition of 20% VAT on certain sports nutrition products in the UK, the high prices for whey are presenting major challenges.

In the current market, most cheese companies are reported to be making most of their profits out of whey – whereas before it was a waste product only sold for animal feed. As whey prices continue to rise, Rabobank notes that it is seeing tight levels of product availability.

Rabobank’s Kevin Bellamy stressed the importance for all sports nutrition producers to secure raw material supply of whey. He added that new supply is on the way via new plant investments, although this will still take a short while to come on stream. Further announcements of new processing capacity for whey could see the market slacken in two years or so – as new capacity becomes available.

For soy protein, the US dollar and Euro relationship has been an issue. Also, a major drought in the US has impacted soy prices. Kevin noted that there is some overcapacity in soy concentrate and soy isolate, which has sheltered some producers making use of soy. He expected to see an increased use of combined whey and soy, particularly in the weight management category.

Day 2 – Innovation Track

  • The science (of protein and other ingredients) for improving health of women and older adults – Elisa Glover, Senior Scientist, Adult Specialist Nutrition, GlaxoSmithKline Nutritional Healthcare (United Kingdom)
  • Specific bioactive collagen peptides and their benefits for athletes – Stefan Siebrecht, Consultant Health Ingredients (Germany)
  • Protein and carbohydrate ingestion & exercise: Research challenges in sport nutrition – Naomi Cermak, Department of Human Movement Sciences, University Maastricht (The Netherlands)
  • The future of rehydration – Ellie Hadjilucas, Nutrition and Sports Science Manager, The Coca-Cola Company Europe Group (Belgium)
  • UBIQUINOL CoQ10 and Sport Nutrition – Stefan Siebrecht, Consultant Health Ingredients (Germany)

A closing session then addressed regulatory issues, with a packed room listening in on the latest EU and country-specific regulations for ingredients, claims and labelling:

  • Regulatory perspective and industry challenges on labelling and ingredients – Stefanie Zumdick, Manager Regulatory Affairs, Diapharm (Germany)




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