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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Can one sports nutrition company please all customer types: hardcore bodybuilders, casual exercisers, men and women, and even senior athletes?
As today’s sports nutrition market diversifies, sports marketers have endless opportunities to reach new consumers with performance, recovery, and other athletic products. But is it really possible for one company to please all customer types: hardcore bodybuilders, casual exercisers, men and women, and even senior athletes?
One place where these consumers meet is the food aisle, as writer Robby Gardner points out in our cover story on sports nutrition market trends. Sports shoppers of all types are turning to “real food.” In this way, sports nutrition customers are no different from consumers generally who are embracing functional food and drinks. There is also common ground in “clean” nutrition and plant-based ingredients, as leading market brands describe here.
At the Natural Products Expo West trade show in March, I interviewed one company, Vega, who exemplifies a brand that’s been able to craft a sports nutrition strategy to reach both ends of the consumer spectrum. Avid athletes are fans of the company’s Vega Sport Performance Protein powder, built for “next-level performance;” at the same time, the company caters to the masses with its Vega Clean Protein, which Paige Snyder, Vega’s regional educator, described as targeting “lifestyle” consumers. The two plant-based products are similar in terms of “core values [and] same methods of production,” Synder said-only Clean Protein is sold at a lower price point. The ingredient lists reflect the differences. Clean Protein provides 25 g of protein, 4 g of glutamine, and 4 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), while Vega Sport Performance Protein contains a higher 30 g of protein, 6 g of BCAAs, 6 g of glutamine, plus specialty add-ins tart cherry, turmeric, and probiotics. Of the mass-market formula, Synder said, “The idea of Clean Protein is making clean, plant-based nutrition available to everybody of all demographics and incomes. This consumer is somebody who relates more to the protein and a simpler formula.”
Finding a way to court new users while still serving loyal, hardcore athletes is one of the keys to success. Do not discount the importance of attracting new fans. “There is increasing use of supplements by consumers not previously influenced by sports products, including runners, golfers, weekend warriors, etc.,” says Tim Mantel, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for GNC. As he points out, “casual users are growing at a rapid rate compared to the consistent, ‘hardcore’ space.” So, are you ready to play?