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While powders continue to be the primary driver in the BCAA market, other formats are quickly growing in response to new interest in the benefits of BCAAs.
The global market for branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is growing, with a wider subsection of consumers looking for products that support physical activity. BCAA products are no longer just for bodybuilders; now, the healthy active-lifestyle market is becoming aware of amino acid products.
BCAAs are also showing up in more diverse product formats with multiple functional claims. While the wider mainstream market pays relatively little attention to BCAAs, changes in marketing methods suggest they could move beyond the bodybuilding market, opening up opportunities for early-mover brands. Here are some of the trends driving growth in BCAAs.
BCAA Sports Drinks Hit the Market
Major brands are now introducing BCAA sports drinks with amino acids like leucine and valine as primary ingredients. In February 2020, Powerade introduced its Powerade Ultra Citrus Blast Zero Sugar drink, a naturally flavored sports drink with B vitamins, creatine, and BCAAs, including L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine. Meanwhile, October 2019 saw the release of Danone’s MyPro+ protein milk with BCAA, a high-protein, milk-based RTD beverage containing 25 g of protein and 5.1 g of BCAAs. This fat-free drink is made with no added sugar and no colorings or preservatives.
RTD sports drinks with BCAAs have seen impressive growth since 2015. Innova Market Insights data show that in 2019, RTD sports drinks accounted for nearly 6% of all BCAA food and beverage launches worldwide. This category accounted for only 0.8% of launches in 2015, making it the fastest-growing BCAA product format that Innova has tracked.
Post-Workout Power Bars Grow
Post-workout BCAA products are also growing in popularity, particularly in the global market outside of North America. These products are capitalizing on favorable clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of BCAAs as post-workout ingredients.1 While athletes have several different options for post-workout products, bars are rapidly gaining ground due to their convenience. BCAA product launches in the sports bar category grew by a factor of 10 between 2015 and 2019, according to Innova data, increasing from just 0.3% of all BCAA product launches five years ago to 3.1% last year.
In January 2020, for instance, Brazil-based company Nutry launched its vanilla-flavored post-workout protein bar, a 30-g power bar with BCAAs, 10 g of whey protein, and 26 vitamins and minerals. Meanwhile, in May 2020, RBar Energy launched a new line of almond protein bars. Almond protein powder contains leucine, isoleucine, and valine in the 2:1:1 ratio necessary to increase lean muscle mass, RBar said in a press release.2
Are Brands Building Mainstream Awareness?
Innova data indicate that awareness of BCAAs among a general consumer audience remains low; however, BCAAs are beginning to show up in more retail settings as ingredients in sports nutrition product lines. BCAAs are also being incorporated in multi-ingredient formulations.
In February 2020, for instance, Canadian company BodyLogix released its new native whey isolate protein powder with 2.9 g of leucine and 5.7 g of other BCAAs per 31-g serving. BodyLogix explicitly markets this product to three different audiences: professional athletes, aspiring athletes, and active individuals. In addressing the functional benefits of BCAAs specifically, BodyLogix positions BCAAs as useful “for the maintenance of good health.” Perhaps most notably, there is no direct mention of bodybuilding in the product’s official description.
These shifts indicate that an opportunity is emerging for BCAAs in the healthy active-lifestyle market. As more brands start positioning BCAAs as sports products and active-lifestyle supplements, expect such consumers to start seeking out more information about BCAA formulations.
BCAAs Bring Opportunity
While powders continue to be the primary driver in the BCAA market, making up more than 80% of all BCAA product launches in 2019, other formats are quickly growing in response to new interest in the benefits of BCAAs. BCAAs are proving to be particularly popular in bars and sports drinks. These products aren’t yet mainstream, but they’re also not just for gym rats anymore. Health-conscious “weekend warrior” consumers are starting to take notice of BCAA products, priming the active-living vertical for future growth. As BCAAs expand beyond bodybuilders and into the healthy active-lifestyle market, expect opportunities for more brands and more diverse products to arise.