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Basic Guide To The Sports Nutrition Industry

Sep 3, 2008
The role of food in total health care is not something new to mankind. The use of food to maintain man's health is as natural as day and night. More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates, considered as the father of medicine, said, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." It is this principle that eventually led to the explosion of the nutraceutical industry.

The nutraceutical industry is concerned with nutraceuticals, that is, "food or part of a food that offers medical and/or health benefits including prevention or treatment of disease."

All therapeutic areas such as anti arthritic, cold and cough, pain killers, digestion, sleeping disorders, blood pressure, cholesterol, prevention of certain cancers, osteoporosis, depression and diabetes are covered by nutraceuticals.

Products range from herbal dietary supplements, actual food components in dosage form such as capsules or tablets to beverages fortified with vitamins and genetically engineered designer foods, functional foods, processed foods such as cereal, soup and beverages.

Functional foods, the most popular term among consumers are modifieds food or food ingredients that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.

Nutraceuticals is widely popular in the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe and has garnered $80 billion dollars in revenues. The demand for nutraceuticals has been growing worldwide due to consumer awareness of the links of diet and disease, aging population, rising health care cost and innovations in food technology and nutrition.

Sports and Food
In the last decade, sports and fitness nutrition has emerged as one large distinct category in the nutraceutical industry. Three main products contributed to the market's dramatic 2004 growth:

- low carbohydrate products - which grew by as much as 154%
- sports energy beverages - which grew by 18%;
- sports supplements - which grew by 6%.

Now, the $2 billion-worth sports nutrition industry has moved away from the plain-tasting protein powders into a bigger pool of choices for customers. Available in almost any drug stores or supermarkets are energy bars, meal replacement products, protein powders, individual items (e.g., creatine, L-carnitine), amino acids, herbs, prohormones (hormone precursors); vitamins; minerals; and combination products. Because of this the sports nutrition nutraceutical industry is considered a 'niche' market and an offshoot of the mainstream food industry.

Competition factors for the Sports Nutrition Market
Product/brand differentiation
Because of greater saturation and competition in the marketplace sports nutrition products look alike and sound the same. Maintaining a brand that stands apart from the rest is difficult but a thing to strive for.

Research-substantiated claims.
Consumers' ability to make intelligent choices should never be underestimated. People place more faith endorsements by university professors and doctors and claims backed by independent research than by endorsements by celebrities.
Core products and strategies
A good strategy now is to focus development of core products or integrating with large food and pharmaceutical concerns (e.g., Powerbar, BalanceBar).

E-commerce
For small companies that cannot or will not rely on strong distribution relationships, e-commerce is an increasingly attractive option.

Basis for marketing strategy
The factors for competition stated above have been gleaned from researches of what consumers are willing to pay for. Overall, customers want:

Something New
Retailers and consumers clamor for "new," whether it means new forms of delivery (gels, effervescent tablets, functional beverages), new applications of or combinations with existing products, or all-natural sports nutrition products that are free of artificial ingredients and solvents.

Excellent Tasting All-natural products
Consumers are also looking for products that taste good and are easy to take. Taste is a major feature that can either make or break a product. The hunt is on for manufacturers to come up with better and new flavors.

High quality and safe products
Regulatory agencies exist to protect the consumers. It is the responsibility of product manufacturers to undertake sound research and prove the efficacy and safety of their nutraceutical products. Products that are based on false or misleading marketing should be and are banned and condemned.

Through product sales and advances in research and development, the Sports Nutrition Nutraceutical Industry is now validating what was proven, early on, by the fitness and nutrition pioneers - sports nutrition products provide easier access to a healthier way of performing and living.
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