Sports Nutrition

Spring into Sports Nutrition Beverages in 2023

Longer days and warmer weather make getting out and about much easier. For many consumers, it also sparks a renewed enthusiasm for fitness - but which sports nutrition beverage will they reach for? 

Team talk

Whatever the goal – regular visits to the gym, a long-distance run or a kickabout in the park – sports nutrition is likely to be part of many fitness plans. And research tells us that protein-based RTDs will be a popular go-to option. Why?

Because this dynamic category has grown consistently over recent years1. It recorded the highest number of new product launches within the sports nutrition market in 20202. And is forecast to expand three-fold over the next ten years3. All of which points to strong demand from consumers of all fitness levels. Without forgetting those who reach for these drinks to help them power through a difficult day at work, school or college.

Yet, although this dynamic category has successfully achieved mainstream cut through, consumers keep moving the goalposts. It’s no longer enough to rely on loyalty or brand reputation. To succeed, the next generation of protein-based RTDs must also align with high expectations in terms of taste, sugar-reduction and plant-based ambitions.

Meeting these complex demands is challenging. Dedicated football fans want a high-performance protein drink with reduced sugar content but won’t compromise on taste. While gym-going "naturelle's" are looking for the benefits of protein and key functional ingredients in a refreshing, natural, sugar-free formulation.

Cut sugar without compromising taste

First up, think about cutting sugar. Its poor nutritional reputation makes it a no-go for many health-conscious consumers. The use of artificial sweeteners and additives is also firmly out of bounds. That said, these low and no-sugar alternatives must still deliver great taste.  

We know that's not easy, particularly when sugar is known to be an effective way to mask off-notes from protein. To make it work, you need a system of alternative ingredients that not only counters unwanted bitter flavours, but also delivers a sugar-like taste – plus the technical expertise to achieve the best drinking experience. But that’s not all.

Choosing plant-based sweeteners – such as PureCircle™ by Ingredion’s portfolio of stevia modifiers and sweeteners – will further elevate label appeal. Fully traceable, sustainably produced and zero calories, these powerful ingredients can be used to support vegan and ‘naturally-sourced’ claims.

Prioritise plant-based protein

Next, you need to look at alternative sources of protein. Whey protein may be a traditionally popular choice, but it won’t impress consumers choosing to avoid dairy or follow a plant-based diet. Pulses, such as pea and faba beans, on the other hand, are a much stronger option. 

Viewed as nutritional powerhouses, these humble beans are not only naturally high in protein, they also tick the label-friendly box. A position that makes VITESSENCE® Prista pulse protein isolate one of our star players in applications such as vegan and no added sugar RTM protein powders

Raise your game

To stand out in this highly competitive field, you need to ensure your sports nutrition RTDs deliver on every level. That means recognising that lifestyle and dietary choices are just as important to the target audience as dedication to fitness.

Product formulation and positioning need to speak to their concerns. Low/no-added sugar, plant-based, vegan and naturality are all part of the purchasing decision. Of course, beating all of these to the top of the table is great taste. That remains non-negotiable. 

Are you up for the challenge? Find out how our formulation capabilities, sugar reduction solutions and plant-based proteins can help you hit the back of the net, every time. 

[1] Innova Survey 2020

[2] Innova Survey 2020