Sports nutrition consumers showing renewed interest overall nutrition and immune health

October 16, 2020

A recent webinar hosted by CRN called “Sports Nutrition: Challenges and Opportunities Amidst COVID-19” shed some light on how the fitness and sports nutrition market is faring during the pandemic.

A recent webinar hosted by The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, D.C.) called “Sports Nutrition: Challenges and Opportunities Amidst COVID-19” shed some light on how the fitness and sports nutrition market is faring during the pandemic. One of the most important takeaways from the webinar is that consumers are actively trying to improve their health and buying dietary supplements is a means to do so.

Steve French, senior vice president of the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI; Newtown Square, Pennsylvania) reported during the webinar that 62% of U.S. adults over the age of 18 said they’ve become more health conscious since the COVID-19 outbreak, and 47% said they’ve become more worried about their personal health. For 64% of these adults, exercise is seen as an important means to maintain health, which is up from 53% in 2006. The amount of exercise has also increased to 20 minutes of exercise 3.5 days per week, compared to 2.7 days per week in 2006.

Since the pandemic started, the number of new dietary supplement users increased, said French. According to NMI, 21% of U.S. adults over the age of 18 say they started taking vitamins or other supplements since the COVID-19 outbreak, with new supplement users skewing toward women and millennials. Among existing supplement users, 26% says they’ve increased their supplement usage. Interest in immune health products has particularly increased, said French. According to NMI, 37% of consumers say they’re more interested in immune boosting foods, and 36% say they’re interested in learning more about immune boosting supplements.

While economic turmoil is one of the many unfortunate outcomes of the pandemic, with 29% of consumers saying their income has been impacted by the pandemic, and therefore buying lower cost items, there are some consumers (19%) that stated they have bought more expensive products because their usual brands were out of stock. Therefore, some consumers are willing to make concessions for their health, and spend money on dietary supplements, even if it means spending a few more bucks.

Businesses have also been feeling a great deal of hurt since the pandemic forced officials to impose lockdown orders, shuttering any brick and mortar businesses not deemed essential. However, some dietary supplement manufacturers did not so much see a decline in sales as they did a shift in channel revenue. For example, Atrium Innovations reported seeing a dramatic increase in revenue from direct-to-consumer sales for its Klean Athlete line of sports nutrition products. Klean Athlete is sold to healthcare practitioners, professional sports teams, coaches, trainers, and athletes directly.

According to Adam Branfman, e-business and Klean Athlete director for Atrium, prior to the pandemic, Klean Athlete sales were 70% B2B and 30% direct-to-consumer. In March of 2020 the brand experienced a decline in sales as a result of the pandemic, but in May its direct-to-consumer sales saw a drastic upswing, accelerating above original expectations for that channel and stabilizing overall sales for the brand. Much of this, says Branfman, was driven by a renewed focus on everyday health and wellness through exercise and nutrition, driving sales acceleration of Klean Athlete’s core foundation products such as vitamins, omegas, and probiotics to outperform pre-, during, and post-workout supplements.

It’s clear that consumers are craving exercise and activity to remain healthy and sane during stress of a pandemic, and while supplements remain an important source of nutrients for active adults, there is a greater focus on immune health and overall nutrition as opposed to muscle building and recovery, for example.