Along with “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” the list of all-purpose icebreakers has expanded to include this query: “What are you training for?” For whether it’s a Tough Mudder, a tri, or Monday-morning spin class, odds are that you or someone you know is sweating over something.
So with all these newly minted exercisers chasing PRs and tracking every erg of output, the number of consumers thinking deliberately about how to fuel their engines has grown—and makers of sports-nutrition products find themselves facing a whole new set of mouths to feed.
But though today’s “weekend warriors” may fancy themselves champions, can a sports bar or protein shake really make a difference in how fast they cross the finish line?
It’s a provocative question, and as Bruce Brown, MPH, MA, president, Natreon (New Brunswick, NJ), observes, “Whether weekend warriors push themselves toward personal bests or simply enjoy engaging in exercise in a community environment, optimal performance requires that bodies be ready when needed. And product is emerging to address the spectrum of needs for those who describe themselves as weekend warriors.”
The sports-nutrition market was going strong even before casual competitors started swelling its ranks, but their participation has surely added to the gains.
Consider that Grand View Research expects the global sports nutrition market to hit $24.43 billion by 2025, reflecting a CAGR of 9.7%. And though this growth “is driven by increasing consumer awareness, rising interest in healthier food, and the increasing availability of information and access to studios and gyms across the country through fitness apps, we foresee the group of casual, recreational athletes continuing to increase, making the sports nutrition market even bigger year over year,” says Georgia Dina Konstantopoulos, communication manager, FrieslandCampina Ingredients Active Nutrition (Paramus, NJ).
The emergence of casual competitors also explains why “the demographics and landscape of the sports-nutrition category have seen so much change in the past few years,” adds Andrew Wheeler, vice president of marketing, FutureCeuticals Inc. (Momence, IL). “These products were previously mostly for bodybuilders and hardcore athletes, and were geared mainly toward men. But the focus has gradually shifted, and sports nutrition is now for everyone, from endurance athletes to weightlifters to weekend warriors.”
Just who that weekend warrior is confounds easy description, but observers agree that, en masse, the demographic is driven, demanding, and spans genders and ages, from the Millennial to the more mature.
Adds Konstantopoulos, “Weekend warriors are the busy bees of the workweek who, because of job or family obligations, commit to working out mostly during the weekend.”
Help from fitness-tracking devices and social media make that commitment harder to escape, “so it’s common for them to engage in the most trending and up-and-coming types of exercises,” Konstantopoulos continues: Pure Barre, yoga, Pilates, interval training, gym classes, and outdoor pursuits like swimming, biking, running, triathlons, and mountain biking.
Whatever sport they choose, “These consumers are willing to invest heavily in active lifestyles that match their crowd and culture,” says Elyse Lovett, marketing manager, Kyowa Hakko USA (New York City). Equally important, “They’re willing to spend a little more on products that meet their high demands for convenience, functionality, and clean labels.”
Ermel Manuel, technical sales support manager of adult nutrition at FrieslandCampina, agrees. “Weekend warriors are all about convenience,” he says. “They opt for tasty, clean-label, on-the-go products such as beverages, bite-sized bars, cookies, and other snacks that support their fitness goals.” Less appealing, he contends, are products that require hands-on preparation, like powdered beverages.
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