Plant based sports nutrition

Plant-Based Sports Nutrition Hits the Mark for Eco-Conscious Consumers

Plant-based diets are on the rise as more consumers pursue environmentally sustainable lifestyles. This trend is influencing nearly all food and beverage categories—and sports nutrition is no exception. Explore the major trends in plant-based sports nutrition and how manufacturers can use plant proteins to make their brands more eco-friendly.

Plant-Based Sports Nutrition on the Rise

Manufacturers have made great strides in developing plant-based versions of their most popular products to attract the growing number of plant-forward, eco-conscious consumers. These consumers are trying to align their actions with their values and look to products that can support these efforts. Especially among Millennial and Gen Z consumers, food purchases are viewed as a way to “vote with their dollars.”

Companies are catching up to evolving demands as the category expands to include a more healthy lifestyle focus and eco-friendly consumer. In the twelve months ending July 2019, 14 percent of product launches in sports and performance nutrition featured a vegan or no animal ingredients claim, up from 9 percent in 2014.1 Several major sports nutrition brands have released plant-based line extensions while maintaining a firm commitment to sports nutrition positioning for these new products.

plant-based sports nutrition men

Top Trends in Plant-Based Sports Nutrition

To address the needs of sports and active lifestyle consumers seeking plant-based options, the top priorities for manufacturers are:

  1. sustainability claims,
  2. plant proteins, and
  3. filling micronutrient gaps.

1. SUSTAINABILITY CLAIMS

The top sustainability claims in sports nutrition product launches are environmentally-friendly packaging, recycling, and vegan/no animal ingredients.2 Although environmentally-friendly packaging and recycling have been leading (nearly neck and neck since 2015), vegan/no animal ingredient claims have almost caught up due to rapid growth during the past three years.3

Calling out a product’s sustainability features is a sure way to catch the eye of an eco-conscious consumer browsing the sports nutrition aisle. While plant-based ingredient claims are a must-have for a plant-based sports nutrition product, claims around non-GM or organic production methods, eco-friendly packaging, and corporate sustainability commitments are all effective ways to connect with these consumers.

2. PLANT PROTEINS

Although dairy remains the most common source of protein in sports nutrition launches globally, soy protein is holding steady, while pea is increasing.4 In 2019, 6 percent of global sports nutrition launches included pea protein, up from 2 percent in 2015.5 Pea protein is also the favorite up-and-coming plant protein in the U.S., followed by wheat, nut, soy, and hemp proteins.6

plant-based sports nutrition nuts

U.S. Consumers Who Indicated Protein Source was Appealing or Very Appealing

Protein Type Percentage of Consumers
Pea protein 66%
Wheat protein 51%
Nut protein 49%
Soy protein 45%
Hemp protein 39%

Source: FMCG Gurus, Active Nutrition Survey – Q3 2019 

Protein remains the most important ingredient consumers are looking for when they purchase a sports nutrition product, whether a bar or beverage, so it’s essential that protein has the spotlight in plant-based versions as well. Keeping the protein content high and using plant protein blends to improve protein quality are key strategies to formulating plant-based products that will properly support muscle tissue.

3. FILLING MICRONUTRIENT GAPS

Physically active consumers have high nutrient demands. Many rely on sports nutrition products to make sure they’re getting the right type and amount of macro- and micronutrients to support their performance and exercise goals. For plant-based consumers—particularly vegan consumers—taking in enough of the right nutrients to sustain a highly active lifestyle can be even more challenging.

Sports nutrition products fortified with potential shortfall nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and calcium, can help active plant-based consumers fill the gaps. In addition, complementing plant proteins with amino acids can help ensure the product provides optimal muscle support. A product that makes active plant-based consumers feel healthy and well-nourished while supporting their efforts toward a more sustainable lifestyle is likely to gain a loyal following.

Winning the Game with Plant-Based Nutrition

Plant-based sports nutrition is showing no signs of slowing. While active lifestyle consumers are driving this shift, a growing number of sports performance consumers have begun exploring the benefits of plant-based eating, making this an exciting time for sports nutrition—a category known for innovation.

Glanbia Nutritionals' plant-based protein solutions deliver the benefit of protein fortification and improve the taste, texture, and functionality of a range of applications. We ensure our plant-based protein ingredients are non-GMO, gluten-free, kosher, and have good supply continuity. Our protein solutions are designed to specifically improve sports nutrition products such as powdered drink mixes, beverages, and bars.


References

1. Mintel. (2020). A year of innovation in sports & performance nutrition.
2-3. Mintel. (2020). GNPD March 2020, all specialized performance nutrition launches.
4-5. Mintel. (2020). New directions in sports nutrition.
6. FMCG Gurus. (2019). Active Nutrition Survey – Q3 2019.