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Plant-Based Sports Nutrition Ingredient Trends in Europe

Demand for plant-based sports nutrition products is growing in Europe, but what exactly are consumers looking for? These are the plant-based sports nutrition trends to know—from what’s driving consumer interest to top flavors and formats. 

Highlights:

  • European consumers prefer plant-based products because they are better for the environment. 
  • Basic flavors, like chocolate, are still the most popular in the European sports nutrition market.
  • Bars and RTD's are the most consumed plant-based sports nutrition products. 

 


High Consumer Interest in Plant-Based Sports Nutrition

Europe’s sports nutrition brands have been rapidly expanding into plant-based to keep up with consumer demand. Some brands adding several plant-based options to their lineup in the last five years include Prozis, Grenade Carb Killa, JC’s Trek, Foodspring, Barebells, Nutramino, and Maxim.1

Vegan claims grew more than 38% in UK sports nutrition launches from 2019 to 2020 and accounted for nearly one in five of new sports nutrition products by 2021.2 In France and the UK, the top claim appealing to consumers when choosing a sports nutrition product is “plant-based,” a claim that appeals to a whopping 96% of French and 92% of UK consumers.3

In Germany, France, and the UK, the vast majority (90% of German and 89% of French and UK consumers) have tried a sports nutrition product with plant protein.4 Sports nutrition is one of the many categories being reshaped by consumers’ growing interest in plant-based protein.

Plant-Based Sports Nutrition Ingredient Trends

To understand how consumer interest in plant-based protein is influencing Europe’s sports nutrition market, here’s a look at the trends. 

1. Environmental Sustainability Driving Use

Research shows the leading motivation for choosing plant-based sports nutrition products is not perceived health benefits, but sustainability. “Plant protein is better for the environment” is the top reason for trying plant protein sports nutrition products by consumers in the UK (80%), France (83%), and Germany (83%)—just ahead of “plant protein is healthier.”5 

2. Standard Sports Nutrition Flavors Preferred

When it comes to flavors, consumers still expect the standard sports nutrition flavors in their plant-based offerings. Plant-based sports nutrition product launches in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) from 2016 to 2021 show chocolate is the top flavor, present in 14% of new products.6 Plain (7%) and vanilla (6%) were next, followed by cookies and cream (4%) and strawberry (3%).7

protein bars

3. Bars and RTDs Lead

The plant-based sports nutrition products European consumers are reaching for the most are bars and ready-to-drink beverages. Of EMEA new product launches in plant-based sports nutrition between 2016 and 2021, more than half (53%) were snack, cereal, or energy bars, while 30% were nutritional and meal replacement drinks.

Addressing Changing Consumer Needs

Ongoing concerns about sustainability, along with the mainstreaming of plant-based protein in other categories, means plant-based options will ultimately become essential to every sports nutrition brand’s portfolio. Though product flavors and formats may stay the same, switching to plant-based proteins can have formulation, sensory, and shelf life challenges that make it important to choose the right plant-based protein ingredients

Our BarHarvest Plant Proteins provide protein fortification in bars while delivering a soft texture and improved shelf life compared to standard plant protein ingredients. In beverages, our HarvestPro Pea XtraSmooth Protein is a top choice for an allergen-free plant protein that offers excellent sensory and stability properties in RTDs. 

Contact us to discuss the right protein ingredient for your next plant-based sports nutrition product.

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References

1. Mintel/Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Data, August 2021.
2. Mintel/Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Data, June 2020.
3. FMCG Gurus, Performance Nutrition Survey France, Q4 2020.
4-5. FMCG Gurus, Performance Nutrition Survey UK, France, Germany, Q4 2020.
6-8. Mintel/Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Data, August 2021.

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