Mainstream consumers increasingly seek protein for sports nutrition, but their needs and purchase motivations vary, according to a major global study by Arla Foods Ingredients.
A total of 43 percent of the 12,000 consumers surveyed said they looked for added protein when choosing foods and beverages for exercise, rising to 52 percent for those aged 18-29. This interest in protein is growing, with 31 percent stating they had increased their use in the past two years compared with only 7 percent who had decreased usage.
The in-depth research, which looked at how people buy into the sports nutrition market and perceive healthy living, enabled Arla Foods Ingredients to identify three distinct consumer types, each with different attitudes to exercise, nutrition, and protein.
The first group, The Enthusiasts, exercises strenuously at least three times per week and frequently chooses food and beverages to support athletic performance. They score above average in many areas. For example, 93 percent have an exceptional interest in protein, and 60 percent actively search for added-protein sports nutrition products.
‘Easy Health’ refers to the second group of consumers. They follow a relatively active balanced lifestyle with an interest in nutrition. They are likely to respond positively to popular health trends. Like Enthusiasts, they choose protein-rich foods to help with areas such as sports recovery but are unlikely to sacrifice taste in favour of functionality.
Those in the third segment – Healthy Feel Goods – do not prioritise exercise but focus on how diet impacts health. Healthy Feel Goods are likely to favour drinkable products such as smoothies, waters, and kefir, because they buy into their health benefits (59 percent) and want beverages that add vitamins and nutrients to their overall diet (56 percent).
Troels Nørgaard Laursen, Director of Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients said: “Now that sports nutrition has moved into the mainstream, it has become increasingly important for manufacturers in this category to understand consumer attitudes to exercise, nutrition and key ingredients such as protein. We have been able to identify three distinct consumer types, giving some useful pointers in how producers can promote protein to these different segments.”
Anne Høst Stenbæk, Head of Marketing at Arla Foods Ingredients, added: “A high proportion of Enthusiasts say they make a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet, and they choose food to improve their athletic performance. They are willing to give up on both taste and convenience to get there, so for them, it’s all about functionality. In contrast, Easy Health consumers agree that an active lifestyle is very important in contributing to overall health. But this group is not willing to compromise on taste, so manufacturers would do well to target them differently.
She continued: “And while those in the third group – Healthy Feel Goods – are not focused on exercise, their interest in nutrition is high, perhaps higher than those in the other groups. They are highly receptive to documented health claims so focusing on protein’s health benefits as a super ingredient is a good strategy for manufacturers. This group does not necessarily look for food, which is directly linked to being active. But they show a strong interest in protein for things like energy, weight management, and mental energy.”
Arla Foods Ingredients has years of experience supplying ingredients – such as whey protein isolates, concentrates and hydrolysates – for the sports nutrition market. This latest study is part of the company’s strategy to maintain its position as a leading player in this industry.