Once the preserve of athletes and bodybuilders, Mintel’s Attitudes towards Sports Nutrition 2017 Report finds that many of the UK’s fitness lovers are using sports nutrition products. Indeed, almost three in 10 Brits (27%) use sports nutrition products*, rising to two in five (39%) Brits who exercise more than once a week.

Overall, it is the UK’s young men who show the strongest use of sports nutrition products, with three in five (61%) men aged 16-34 saying they use these products. High usage among this group comes at a time when many men are following bulky exercise regimes. Over one in three (35%) men aged 16-34 say they exercise four times a week or more, compared to 26% of women of the same age.

Meanwhile, it seems young women’s use of sports nutrition is growing from strength to strength, with two in five (40%) women aged 16-34 using sports nutrition products. What is more, Mintel research reveals that there has been a surge in usage of protein powders among young women. Indeed, while only 7% of women aged 16-24 used protein powders for drink in 2015, this has more than doubled in 2017 to 18%.

Currently, the top three sports nutrition products used by Brits are protein bars (11%), followed by protein powders for a drink (10%) and energy bars (9%).

Anita Winther, Research Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The sports nutrition category continues to grow in popularity. A new ideal appears to be rising that sidelines the waiflike figures common among many fashion models in favour of athletic and toned – or even highly muscular – physiques, widely known as ‘strong is the new skinny’. This is great news for the sports nutrition market as well as high-protein brands and is likely to be contributing to the uptake in usage. It also helps to explain, in particular, the increase in popularity of protein powders among young women.”

However, while usage remains strong, as many as 63% of users admit that it is difficult to tell whether a sports nutrition product is benefitting them. Meanwhile, more than seven in 10 (72%) users would like to see an industry-wide certification that ensures quality of ingredients.

Mintel research finds that consumers’ current scrutiny of food and drink extends to sports nutrition. Some 64% of those who eat or drink sports nutrition products say that they always read the ingredients list before buying a new product and nearly half (46%) of users avoid sports nutrition products with sugar.

“Looking to the future, there is a high level of ingredient scrutiny among sports nutrition users, highlighting the need for brands to be transparent about what goes into their products.” Anita continues.

Furthermore, it’s not just sports nutrition products which Britain’s everyday athletes are relying on, as usage of high-protein food and drink is also strong. Three in 10 (29%) Brits have eaten or drunk high-protein food or drink products in 2017**, with 45% of Brits believing it is important to increase protein intake when exercising regularly and 28% saying that products with added protein are a good alternative to eating foods naturally high in protein.

Despite the popularity of these products, around half (48%) of all Brits believe there is no need for extra protein in a balanced diet.

“The sports nutrition market is facing intensifying competition from the growing number of mainstream foods embracing a high-protein proposition. Usage of the two overlaps heavily and the more accessible prices and less processed image are likely to work in favour of the latter, with “lifestyle” users particularly likely to be swayed.” Anita adds.

Finally, while a third of consumers (34%) believe that they are healthier than they were a year ago, this is failing to filter down to exercise habits. Overall exercise frequency among consumers has seen little change over the last two years. A quarter (26%) of all Brits say they never exercise, compared to 25% who said the same in 2015. Meanwhile, 13% say they exercise between two and three times a month or less, with the same proportion (13%) who said the same in 2015.

“There has been a lot of talk about the booming interest in health in the UK, with the various and wide-ranging aspects of healthy living attracting huge amounts of attention. This is yet to filter down and have a discernible impact on exercise habits, with overall exercise frequency among consumers seeing little change over the last two years.” Anita concludes.

*Sports nutrition products include protein bars, protein powders for a drink, energy bars, supplement capsules/tablets/sachets for sport sport/exercise, Ready-to-drink protein drinks, Energy gels, or other sports/exercise nutrition food/drink

** High-protein products include high protein cereal/snack bars, high-protein yogurt/quark, high-protein dairy drink/smoothie and other food/drink labelled as high in protein

Press review copies of Mintel’s Attitudes towards Sports Nutrition UK 2017 Report and interviews with Anita Winther, Research Analyst at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.

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