Consumers baffled by recovery category
As the sports nutrition market continues to outgrow the gym, competition has never been more fierce. U.S. sales of sports nutrition reached USD $4.7 billion in 2012, according to Euromonitor International. The market research firm projected a constant 7-percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the next five years—reaching $7.2 billion in 2017. Where companies in the past could rely on bodybuilders gulping back chalky protein shakes to support sales, the needs of consumers in the the expanding market demands innovation and product diversification across new product categories.
All major drinks brands are now producing their own range of sports drinks which unlike energy drinks are not caffeinated and carefully formulated to contain the right balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes and minerals to replace those lost through exercise related perspiration. In addition is the new trend of protein enriched drink aimed at the mainstream market including brands such as Upbeat and Goodness Shakes. Arla Foods’ Swedish business Alra Sverige recently reported plans to extend it’s milk based recovery drink range, 50% Extra Protein, after the drink proved more popular with consumers that originally expected, generating healthy sales that exceeded initial predictions. Also adapting to growing demand for protein as a part of recovery nutrtion, sports drink giant Gatorade now includes protein recovery products within its G-Series of products.
The emerging category of recovery nutrition has however left many consumers confused and unsure as to products, their ingredients and the purpose of this category. Marketing may be singled out as the biggest culprit behind the confusion. Whilst it plays a crucial strategic function in the competition for market share, helping to differentiate between products and better target certain demographics, some efforts can be adding to the confusion. For example the differentiation between sports supplement – sports drink – energy drink, can be a blurred line. When a product is referred to and labelled as recovery product, does this mean muscular recovery, the replenishment of glycogen or straight forward re-hydration. In which case could water pass as a recovery product?
Further confusion comes in regards to the different regulations for product categories. A recent survey found that several sports/energy drinks marketed as standard beverages contained similar formulations to those marketed as supplements. As a result those marketed as beverages were not required to adhere to the same set of FDA regulations as supplements regarding their labelling, such as the disclosure of ingredient quantities.
The promotion of recovery products may also been seen as misleading, aiming to convince consumers that leading and expensive products are superior in their effectiveness. However this may not be the case. An unlikely candidate for a drink intended for a health and fitness function given its high sugar and fat content, chocolate milk has been touted by many as the recovery drink of choice. Chocolate milk does contain a good carbohydrate to protein ratio (3:1) as well as vitamins and minerals essential to recovery, including calcium to support bone health.
Studies have concluded that the consumption of macronutrients, in particular carbohydrate and small amounts of protein in the early recovery phase following exercise can help to enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis rates. Whilst the carbohydrate help to refuel by replenishing glycogen, added protein helps to reduce muscle damage. However scientists have found no apparent contraindications for using milk or speciality carbohydrate/protein/amino acid products.