- The demand for plant-based protein is impacting the global protein market.
- Pea, soy, and wheat proteins remain prominent, but next-gen plant proteins are expanding fast in sports nutrition products.
Sports nutrition brands continue to innovate to address consumers’ growing interest in products that can support their health and the health of the planet. Offering plant-based sports nutrition products is the top strategy to address these needs, with plant-based protein at the forefront.
While pea, soy, and wheat proteins remain prominent, next-gen plant proteins are expanding fast in sports nutrition products. Pumpkin seed protein was featured in 41% of plant-based sports nutrition launches globally between September 2020 and August 2021, while 31% contained hemp protein and 23% contained sunflower protein.1 Learn more about how the demand for plant-based protein is impacting the global protein market.
In the US, 97% of consumers have tried plant-based sports nutrition products, with 83% saying plant protein is healthier and 80% saying it’s better for the environment.2 Among plant-based sports nutrition launches from 2016 to 2021, most come from bars (59%) and protein drinks (35%), highlighting the importance of convenient formats in this space.3
The top claims during this period are low/no/reduced allergen, gluten free, and high protein, with chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate peanut butter leading in flavors.4 Pure Protein and Premier Protein launched the most plant-based sports nutrition products,5 with strategies that include the use of vitamins and minerals for immune health and plant protein blends to achieve a complete protein. Products with added probiotics and prebiotics, like Amazing Protein Digest by Amazing Grass, are also poised for growth.
Plant-based sports nutrition products are also in demand in Europe, with most consumers in the UK (88%), France (89%), and Germany (90%) having tried sports nutrition products that contain plant protein.6 In all three countries, “better for the environment” is the top motivation, followed by “healthier.”7 In the UK sports nutrition market, vegan/no animal ingredients claims are on the rise, growing by 38% from 2019 to 2020 in sports nutrition product launches.8
As in the US, bars (53%) and protein drinks (30%) led in EMEA plant-based sports nutrition launches between 2016 and 2021.9 Chocolate was the top flavor, followed by plain and vanilla, with Prozis launching the most plant-based sports nutrition products.10 Trends to watch include plant-based meal replacement shakes like Ultimate Sports Nutrition’s DietFuel Vegan to support weight loss and the use of superfoods as in BioTechUSA's Vegan Protein Plant Protein Drink with Quinoa, Goji and Acai Berry (in Poland).
In the ASPAC market, beverages have the most traction in plant-based sports nutrition, with protein drinks accounting for 48% of 2016-2021 launches, followed by bars at 40%.11 BSc Body Science led in new plant-based sports products in the region, and high/added protein was the top claim.12 In China, 98% of consumers have tried sports nutrition products containing plant protein, with “healthier” (95%) and “better for the environment” (90%) the most popular reasons.13
Some key opportunities include more natural formulations (something 90% of Chinese consumers would like to see in sports nutrition products)14 and flavor innovation. While chocolate, vanilla, and plain are the top flavors in recent plant-based sports nutrition launches,15 other flavors Chinese consumers say appeal to them in a sports nutrition product are blueberry (80%), orange (78%), coconut (64%), and watermelon (55%).16
Glanbia Nutritionals' plant-based solutions make it easy to meet the growing need for plant-based options in the sports nutrition category. We offer optimized ingredients for bars and beverages that provide excellent nutritional and sensory properties—ranging from proteins to flavors to custom premixes for immune health and weight loss support.
Contact us to learn how we can help your brand expand into plant-based sports nutrition.
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