girl drinking protein shake

Sports Nutrition is Shifting to Appeal to a Wider Demographic

Sports Nutrition is shifting to appeal to more than just hardcore athletes.

Sports nutrition is no longer a niche category that appeals to a niche crowd. Traditional players, once focused primarily on the hard-core bodybuilding consumer, are now launching vegan proteins and products with benefits beyond muscle-building. GNC, for example, is putting more emphasis on health and wellness by making more room for plant-based proteins on shelves. Even is expanding their content, publishing articles like “10 Best-Tasting Vegan Protein Powders.” 1

The shift is not limited to sports nutrition companies. We’re seeing large mainstream corporations entering the space. In 2014, Skippy and Spam maker, Hormel Food Corp., acquired CytoSport, maker of Muscle Milk® sports nutrition products. And in 2016, Danone entered an agreement to acquire WhiteWave Foods, which had acquired Vega the year before.  

While there are several factors driving the expansion of the sports nutrition industry, one is certainly America’s continued love affair with protein — the one macronutrient that hasn’t seen any backlash over the years. At the Natural Products Expo West 2015, New Hope found that product claims for protein increased 48% from 2014.2

Although whey is still the king of protein supplements, plant-based proteins are becoming increasingly popular. This is due, in part, to concerns around lactose intolerance, sustainability and animal welfare, as well as the popular belief that a diet containing more plant-based foods contributes to better health.

One plant-based protein that has stepped in the limelight is pea protein — showing an estimated 31% growth in sports nutrition in 2015.2 More recently, high-profile launches like Ripple’s dairy-free milk made from peas, available at Whole Foods and Target stores nationwide, have contributed to its growing popularity.  

While companies like MRM are showing tremendous growth with their plant-based offerings, it’s important to note that this growth is not greatly affecting sales of their whey products2 — indicating that the expanding plant-based protein offerings aren’t replacing but adding to the category as a whole. In fact, the sports nutrition category and plant-based protein in sports nutrition both showed growth rates of 11% in 2015 vs. the year before. 3,4

The sports nutrition industry is shifting to appeal to a wider demographic group and plant proteins are greatly helping to promote that expansion. At Glanbia Nutritionals, we’re co-innovating with our customers to offer industry-leading dairy- and plant-based protein solutions that deliver differentiated results in this quickly growing category. Let us help you imagine what’s possible when you just add Glanbia.


1, January 2017
2 NBJ’s Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss Report 2016
3 Euromonitor International, Sports Nutrition in the US, December 2015
4 NBJ’s Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss Report 2015

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