Grocers Improve Sports Nutrition as Consumer Needs, Products Evolve
- Sports nutrition products continue to grow in popularity, particularly plant-based and protein-rich offerings.
- Manufacturers are moving beyond traditional powder, liquid and bar forms to introduce chips and cookies addressing both savory and sweet cravings.
- Grocers are getting better at merchandising such products, creating in-store destinations featuring a wider range of options and nonfood items like water bottles, mats and apparel.
As consumer demand for sports nutrition products grows, chains are finding ways to extend shelf space or are reorganizing the category to accommodate new entries and shifts in consumer preferences.
Plant-based products are still leading category growth, according to a recent report from London-based market research firm Euromonitor, a trend that’s fueled by increased consumer interest in becoming flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan for health reasons, and/or in support of the cruelty-free animal movement.
Protein-heavy, or Ketogenic, diets are particularly popular with core users of sports nutrition, with many users embracing them as part of their fitness goals to optimize their focus and body energy usage, according to a recent report from Euromonitor. The market researcher reports that innovative manufacturers, such as Franklin, Tenn.-based Ancient Nutrition, are meeting this demand with products such as Keto Protein Coffee and Keto Protein Chocolate.
“Retailers are definitely expanding their space in response to these consumer and category growth trends, particularly on the protein side,” affirms Ryan Therriault, VP of marketing and innovation at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Amazing Grass.
While Buyer Bryan Perry is limited by the space that he can give to the category at Rigby, Idaho-based Broulim’s, which operates 10 stores, he says that he continually adjusts his assortment.
He’s also seen collagen protein, a supplement for skin, bone and joint health, gain traction. “There is big growth in collagen,” Perry asserts. “I’ve added a number of new products in the past six months from Ancient Nutrition.”
The grocer also groups plant- and whey-based products together on promotional display tables in the center of the nutritional section, and uses the displays as another opportunity to educate consumers about the products.
Meanwhile, ShopRite of Ramsey, which devotes 7 feet to powders and drinks and 20 feet to bars, uses color-coded signage identifying product attributes (gluten-free, no sugar added, vegan and good source of calcium) on shelf tags in the sports nutrition section.
“If products are put in the wrong section of a store or displayed incorrectly, it could entirely change the messaging of the item. Supermarkets have been improving in this regard, creating entire aisles or shelves dedicated to supplements and sports nutrition products."