Sustainability and Sports Nutrition

Sustainability and Sports Nutrition

With more than three in four global performance nutrition consumers wanting products that are good for the planet,1 sustainability is becoming essential in sports nutrition. But what does sustainability mean in this category?


  • Consumers are turning to plant protein due to its strong ties to health and sustainability. 
  • Plastic-free, recyclable, and other sustainable types of packaging are gaining popularity in the sports nutrition market.

Naturalness as a Mega Trend

Sports nutrition consumers report a high level of concern for the environment. There is also the perception that sustainability and health are interlinked, which is why attributes like natural, plant-based, transparent, and ethically-sourced resonate with consumers on multiple fronts. Naturalness, in particular, is increasing across food, beverage, and supplements as a macro trend and is expected to be a strong growth driver in the sports nutrition category.

Plant Protein is Sustainability in Sports Nutrition

In sports nutrition today, plant protein (one of the top sports nutrition trends to watch) has largely become synonymous with sustainability. Offering plant protein options in this category is especially important since a greater proportion of sports nutrition consumers are likely to be following a flexitarian eating style compared to society overall.2 Newer sports nutrition brands have been the most responsive to this trend and are more likely to have a higher proportion of their portfolio in plant-based products.

Among performance nutrition consumers globally, 95% say they find plant protein appealing when choosing a sports nutrition product.3 Across regions, the vast majority have tried sports nutrition products with plant protein: 96% in Asia-Pacific, 92% in South America, 91% in North America, and 89% in Europe.4 The number one reason for trying these products is “plant protein is better for the environment” (82%), just ahead of “plant protein is healthier” (81%).5  

seeds in a bowl

Plant protein is prominent in sports nutrition powders and bars, as well as ready-to-drink beverages. While the use of pea protein continues to grow, pumpkin seed was the most featured plant protein in 2020 new category launches globally (at 41%), while 31% contained hemp protein, and 23% contained sunflower seed protein.6 For dairy protein, grass-fed is one of a few sustainable options, appealing to 68% of performance nutrition consumers.7

What’s Ahead for Sustainability

While health claims dominated in food and beverage during the 2010s, sustainability claims are projected to overtake health claims in new product launches sometime in the 2020s, based on data forecasting.8 There is an abundance of certifications in place related to sustainability—from USDA Organic to Rainforest Alliance to Carbon Trust—to help support this shift. Several companies have even proposed eco-scoring systems.

In the sports nutrition category, sustainable packaging may be the next frontier. Some brands have already made the move toward more sustainable packaging, whether plastic-free, compostable, or recyclable. Expect sports nutrition products to also continue shifting toward natural ingredients, which include not only additive-free but increasingly GMO-free, as well.

woman with a shake

Ingredients for Health and Sustainability

To meet consumers’ growing expectations for sports nutrition products that are both healthy and sustainable, partner with Glanbia Nutritionals for your next project. Our deep knowledge of category trends, plus our plant protein solutions sourced from pea, chia, and flaxseed will help you win in the competitive sports nutrition market, while supporting a healthier and more sustainable future.

Contact us to get started today.


1-5. FMCG Gurus, The Potential of Performance Nutrition – Global Report, February 2021.
6. Mintel / Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Data, August 2021.
7. FMCG Gurus, The Potential of Performance Nutrition – Global Report, February 2021.
8. Mintel, The Big Conversation: A Recipe for Success, June 2021.

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