wrangler Why active nutrition is driving the move towards prevention

Why active nutrition is driving the move towards prevention

Jan 25, 2024 12:50pm

With a rise in physical activity also came an increased adoption of wearables, trackers, and devices. The result? a burgeoning sports nutrition market that has become the fastest-growing market in the consumer health space 

The COVID pandemic has changed the health and fitness landscape for good and for good reasons.

Consumers have been jolted into a new era of awareness and now want to lead healthier active lives, and they’re looking to sports and active nutrition products to help them achieve that.

Studies conducted in the US show that around 23% of adults spend around 30 minutes per day exercising with slightly higher participation by men (20%) in comparison to women (18%). 

Unlike the pro- athlete using sports nutrition to maximize performance, improve strength, and recovery, consumers or otherwise known as weekend warriors, want their active nutrition solutions to support their heart, brain, respiratory, immune, and sleep health, among other well-being goals.

Governments and public health bodies are now actively looking at solutions to increase this low engagement to meet the WHO goals of 150 minutes per week for all. 


With a rise in physical activity also came an increased adoption of wearables, trackers, and devices. The result? a burgeoning sports nutrition market that has become the fastest-growing market in the consumer health space, according to Euromonitor International, but how is this playing out in the market?


This growth won’t be slowing down anytime soon either, as recent studies show that more and more sports and active nutrition products are moving to the mainstream audience. 

According to Grand View Research, the global sports nutrition industry was worth $40 billion in 2021 and is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% from 2022 to 2030.

Markets driving this growth include North America, Europe, and Asia. According to reports, North America holds the largest (and most unregulated) market share, contributing 40% to the global sports nutrition market. According to reports, their consumer base and prominent market space are responsible for their dominance in the sports nutrition industry.


According to ReportLinker, the US contributes 60% market share to the North American sports nutrition market and 29% to the global market. 

Geographical differences

The UK is topping the European sports nutrition space, and China is predicted to be the largest market in East Asia, according to Future Market Insights. This is unsurprising considering the rapid rise in metabolic conditions such as Diabetes which are largely a result of the adoption of western-style diets (WHO).

According to the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, in 2019, dietary risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were tied to 7.9 million deaths and 187.7 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). High sodium, low whole grain and fruit diets contributed to these dietary risk factors and the rising levels of obesity globally are not showing any signs of slowing down.


51% of consumers worldwide say that they’ve opted for high protein/low sugar snacks over sugar-packed snacks in the past year.

Increased consumer awareness of the impact of exercise on health

The good news is that consumers are becoming aware of how their food choices affect their health and risk of developing chronic illnesses. As a result, they’re looking into food products and ingredients that help them stay fit and healthy. 

The "Food as medicine" and "lifestyle medicine" movements are certainly responsible for this driver. 

 According to an FMCG report, 51% of consumers worldwide say that they’ve opted for high protein/low sugar snacks over sugar-packed snacks in the past year. 

As consumers participate in fitness and sports activities to stay fit and age healthily, they will compliment their efforts by prioritizing foods and supplements that lower their risk of chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, dementia, and obesity.


Drivers of active nutrition

The World Health Organization reports that globally, people are living longer owing to better standards of living, beter treatments and higher disposable incomes. Many people are living beyond age 60. By the next decade, there will be about 1.4 billion people over 60. With long life comes the responsibility of managing age-related illnesses like bone problems, back and neck pain, diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. 


Individuals can ensure healthy aging, reduce their risk of age-related diseases, and remain physically and mentally active by having a well-balanced diet. Diet and exercise therefore play a critical role in healthy aging and disease prevention. Fortunately, older adults are also showing interest in sports nutrition products. Although older adults are a big market for sports nutrition companies, they remain underserved. Currently, less than 1% of sports nutrition products in Western Europe are targeted at this age group.

Thanks to the internet, consumers have easier access to information about healthy living, inspiring them to make healthier choices with regards to their food, exercise, and sleep habits. In 2018, 67% of consumers in the US said they’ll be intentional about making healthy and socially-conscious food choices.

One of the steps towards achieving their health goals is opting for sports nutrition products whilst also being more active. 


With a general interest in health and the impact food has, consumers are looking more closely at labels, reading scientific papers and understanding the impact of their dietary choices on their health and the environmentof consumers worldwide say that they’ve opted for high protein/low sugar snacks over sugar-packed snacks in the past year.

The role of social media

Social media has played a big role in consumer awareness with regards to sports nutrition as information is freely shared with friends and family on platforms and forums in a quest to receive tips and share knowledge to optimize wellbeing. 

As mentioned above, with a general interest in health and the impact food has, consumers are looking more closely at labels, reading scientific papers and understanding the impact of their dietary choices on their health and the environment. This behaviour has led to consumers selecting products that are clean label, plant-based, low sugar, high protein, high fiber and that have a functional health benefit.

According to Future Market Insights, as more consumers choose foods enriched with proteins, sports nutrition companies are well-positioned to satisfy their needs and create more food products that appeal to consumers, which will drive their growth. 

A 2018 survey found that 89% of consumers use at least one digital health tool. These tools are used to track progress, monitor health and get personalised feedback.

More knowledgable and empowered consumers are using this data to improve their health journeys thereby driving the sports and active nutrition market (Figure 2)

Digital solutions satisfy consumer needs for personalisation and health benefits through social networks, on-demand coaching sessions, and educational resources and incentives.

Wearables and fitness trackers can also provide insight into how much sleep, nutrients, and physical activity consumers need, motivating them to take steps to improve their habits which feeds into the global trend of holistic wellness.

Also increasing interoperability between apps means a better customer experience and helps consumers to stay on track by making the feedback and advice actionable.


Trends in Active nutrition & sport

  • Changing attitudes and behaviors: Covid has shifted the belief that exercise is only for athletes and should be done in gyms has shifted to exercise is for everyone and can be done anywhere and at any time.
  • E-commerce: Consumers now have easier access to sports products and can shop for them online. According to McKinsey, over 80% of consumers look for products online. 
  • Sustainability: Not only do consumers want to improve their health with sports nutrition, but they also want these products to be organic, sustainably sourced, evidence-based, personalized, clean and convenient.
  • The future of channels: Even with stores and everywhere else reopening, consumers are preferring to shop online to in-person. McKinsey reports that even after the lockdown, 45% of sales happened online. 


This means that growth in the market is fundamentally a culmination of factors which stem from an innate desire to improve health to prevent disease or worse outcomes while at the same time taking care of the planet. 

Sports nutrition has traditionally been characterized by oversized containers and masculine marketing. Thanksfully this is changing. Consumers increasingly value nutrition products and services that cater to their specific health needs and preferences and will choose sports nutrition that prioritizes personalization. 


According to reports, 43% of consumers want products that cater “just for me,” and 58% will choose foods based on how much it meets their needs or preferences. A personalized approach can include, performance, recovery, strength, joint & bone health, mental focus, gut health, and overall wellbeing.

Personalized nutrition can offer benefits and superior experiences beyond the traditional one-pot-fits-all nutrition approach by informing any recommendations and advice on data such as genetic, environmental, nutritional, and sports duration and other relevant health information. 


Research has shown that personalised advice not only is more enjoyable, it can lead to enhanced adherence and motivation.


Gaps and opportunities

We believe that based on heightened interest in physical and mental health and the important role physical activity plays, we are only at the beginning of a huge overhaul of the sport and active nutrition industry. Considering the curret solutions only make up around 2% of the personalised nutrition market, there are plenty opportunities for growth.

Earning crypto

Aside from the physical and mental health benefits of being physically active, engaging in physical fitness is now earning people crypto and NFTS. Companies such as Stepn, OliveX, Sweatcoin, MetaGym, are some of the companies funding such initiatives. This means that anyone can participate and collect rewards for just being active whilst improving their own and population health. 

At home work out programs

What Peloton started with group exercises at home will just evolve into the metaverse from exercising with VR headsets to holograms and 24/7 access to coaches and home testing metabolite kits that provide insights into the body´s responses. 

Gender based nutrition

Nutrition companies are becoming more intentional about creating products that satisfy the unique health needs of different genders. 

Companies innovating in this space include Ritual, Movita Organics, Knowell, etc. 

We believe that because of the mere fact of different biology, products for female athletes will be geared more towards those wanting to follow a specific dietary pattern (eg Vegan or Keto), those who are at different life stages, and those with specific nutritional requirements (iron deficient) and those who have distinct cardiometabolic signatures.


It goes without saying that current research is biased towards men.


Food and plant-based supplements

As the industry evolves we foresee personalized supplements focusing on personalized proteins, plant-based bioactive, nootropics, adaptogens, targeted micronutrients, and synbiotics. Companies such as Nourished which have recently launched their 3D printed protein bars are poised to do well in the sport and active nutrition market.


Sports nutrition for the silver years

As less than 1% of the sport and nutrition market focuses on this target population, there is plenty of room for growth. Whether through incentives, partnerships, or online classes, we predict that this area, combined well with nutrition, especially with a focus on protein and micronutrients, is set for growth and success. Companies such as Rousselot are actively promoting collagen peptides for mobility and healthy aging. 


Active nutrition marketplaces

The trend in making it easy to find suitable products based on health goals is set to continue. Companies such as Elo which offer a curated marketplace can offer a better experience and simplify the health journey for consumers.


Social determinants

It is well known that there are deserts in terms of gyms, access to healthcare, and fresh foods in lower-income areas. A recent study demonstrated that in order to mitigate disparities in especially black and Hispanic groups a number of barriers will need to be addressed which can include; education, affordability, accessibility, and support. In return, these groups would be willing to share their data and participate in research.



Sport and active nutrition is a rapidly growing market as a result of multiple cumulative factors. such as digitization, personalization, sustainability and Food as medicine. New players are gaining market share by focusing on traditionally excluded groups, personalized offerings, and clean, natural products. 

While women and the aging population remain largely underserved target groups, these present unique opportunities for brands as the appetite for suitable and personalised products is only increasing. 

Incorporating physical activity as incentives towards the wider population's health will contribute to global health in the long term, on the proviso that it is affordable, easy to access, and easy to understand the health benefits. This will require the collaboration and cooperation of a variety of key stakeholders.

There is still a long way to go but the future is looking fit!



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