woman in gym drinking protein drink Sports Nutrition A Look at 2020 Chinese Consumer Trends

Sports Nutrition: A Look at 2020 Chinese Consumer Trends

China’s national fitness plan, the rapid growth of esports, and rising consumer interest in health are driving the expansion of the country’s dynamic sports nutrition market. Take a look at the 2020 sports nutrition trends in China and what food and beverage companies need to know about this unique market.

China’s Dynamic Sports Nutrition Market

With over 1.43 billion people, China has the largest population in the world and is home to nearly one-fifth of the global population. The market size itself represents a huge growth opportunity for sports nutrition companies that understand the diverse needs of Chinese consumers. China has the second-largest sports nutrition market in Asia Pacific (after Japan), with $329 million in sales.1 E-commerce accounts for 84% of the sports nutrition products sold in China.2

Factors such as consumers’ growing interest in healthy lifestyles along with rising disposable incomes has made Asia Pacific’s emerging economies the leading growth driver of the global sports nutrition market. The continued presence of the Olympics in East Asia (South Korea in 2018, Japan in 2021, and China in 2022) underscores this region’s growing interest in sports and fitness. 

men playing football Sports Nutrition A Look at 2020 Chinese Consumer Trends

Throughout East Asia, government initiatives to promote health and reduce obesity have put a spotlight on exercise. In China, the 2016-2020 National Fitness Plan includes targets to increase sports participation and improve fitness among the population, in addition to expanding sports infrastructure such as soccer fields. In response, a growing number of younger people in China are participating in sports and going to the gym, while older people are embracing physical activities like square dancing.

Sports Nutrition Trends and Opportunities in China

The recent buzz around sports and fitness in China has made this an exciting time for sports nutrition companies. To gain insights into the potential of this growing market, here’s a look at the top sports nutrition trends in China for 2020.

1. Pre-COVID: Sports Drink Consumption Rises with Outdoor Sports Participation

In China, 70% of people ages 20 to 49 consume sports drinks, while 65% consume energy drinks.3 The top motivations are to relieve fatigue (57%) and boost hydration (55%), with flavor and nutritional content tied as the most important purchase factors.4 Convenience plays a major role in choosing RTD beverages. Of Chinese consumers who use sports drinks, 68% indicate they do so while engaging in outdoor sports. The prevalence of busy, on-the-go lifestyles in China’s urban centers indicates the potential for sports and energy drinks to penetrate to more consumption occasions.

2. The Rise of Esports

Esports is now a mainstream past time in China. Of those ages 18 to 49, 61% have played esports games and would do so again, and 54% agree esports should be recognized as a sport.5 The rapid growth of China’s esports industry (which grew 51% from 2016 to 2018) has made sports nutrition for gamers a promising opportunity.6 Ingredients with eye and cognitive health benefits are key to addressing the nutritional needs of gamers.

men playing esports with headset Sports Nutrition A Look at 2020 Chinese Consumer Trends

3. Digestive Health Benefits

Functional products with digestive health benefits are in high demand in China. Sports nutrition products are just beginning to address this need. Half of consumers ages 20 to 49 have an interest in sports and energy drinks with added probiotics, while 35% are interested in added prebiotics.7 With research showing links between the gut microbiome and immunity, skin health, and even mental health, sports nutrition companies that include digestive health ingredients can broaden their appeal.

4. Consumer Awareness of Ingredients  

As is the case in many areas around the world, there is a growing awareness in China of the health impacts of certain food ingredients in products and a corresponding growing interest in the information found on nutritional labels. According to Mintel, 78% of consumers read the ingredient and nutrition label when purchasing an energy drink. One in five also indicates that there are too many additives in energy and sports drinks. As the market grows, consumer scrutiny on quality ingredients increases.

Winning in China’s Sports Nutrition Market

For sports nutrition companies looking to expand into China’s growing market, keeping a close eye on trends is essential. China’s market is unique in many ways, with an abundance of opportunities to meet the needs of its large and diverse population.

From dairy-based to plant-based proteins, health beneficial bioactives, to our expertise in the formulation of premixes for sports nutrition-focused products, Glanbia Nutritionals has solutions to help develop products that will resonate with these consumers. Contact Glanbia Nutritionals for more insights about sports nutrition trends in Asia Pacific and other regional markets.


1. Global Market for Sports Nutrition and Dairy Ingredients 2019-2023, 3A, October 2019.
2. Euromonitor, The Evolution of Sports Nutrition – A 2019 Update on Trends and Innovations, March 2019.
3-4. Mintel, Sports & Energy Drinks – China, July 2019. Base: 3,000 internet users aged 20-49.
5-6. Mintel, Meet the changing needs of today’s athletes, January 2020.
7. Mintel, Sports & Energy Drinks – China, July 2019. Base: 3,000 internet users aged 20-49.

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