To many of us, healthy living in the 21st century is now strongly associated with an active lifestyle. This has given rise to the ‘sportification’ trend, increasing demand amongst mainstream consumers for sports nutrition products that meet their nutritional needs for being active. Apart from a widening audience contributing to the boom of the sports nutrition market, the rise of e-sports has also had a significant role to play in the sector’s growth.
E-sports: The new kid on the block
COVID-19 has accelerated the popularity of e-sports with a notable increase in gamer numbers due to the pandemic. Asia, in particular, is the world’s largest and most important region for e-sports, accounting for more than half of the USD 1.1 billion global e-sports market and an audience that grew by 13 percent in 2021.
As interest in e-sports continues to trend upward, this represents an opportunity for sports nutrition. As with other more traditional sports, performance and endurance are key for e-sports athletes, which opens up a whole new audience for sports nutrition product manufacturers.
Given the popularity of e-sports and its incredibly high stakes, with prize money going up into the millions and a captivated global audience, e-athletes are often under enormous pressure to perform at their best, and many are seeking products that will help them excel. This target audience has diverse mental and physical needs, ranging from heightened concentration to enhanced reaction time and alleviating body pain and fatigue due to being in front of a screen for prolonged periods.
The same can also be said for the growing number of leisure gamers, amounting to nearly 1.5 billion in the region2, who aspire to boost their performance similarly to e-athletes. With this in mind, there is a tremendous opportunity for manufacturers to tap into this rising trend for e-sports to formulate sportified products that can help serve the nutritional needs that e-athletes require while also delivering mainstream appeal for recreational gamers.
Sustained energy for sustained performance
However, a particular obstacle that needs to be overcome is that sportified products should be for everybody, not just for professional athletes. Most popular sports nutrition drinks on the market today have been designed to increase energy during exercise. Therefore they traditionally contain high glycaemic carbohydrates, releasing glucose into the bloodstream quickly. Thus, they may be more suited for those needing instant energy for intensive athletic training, such as sprinting. However, this rapid increase in glucose levels in our body is followed by a sudden decline, known as the ‘boost and crash’ effect, which results in a drop in energy levels. This is especially disadvantageous for e-sports athletes who must perform for prolonged hours. Products that offer a quick energy boost via rapidly available carbohydrates will not deliver the sustained energy these e-athletes need to maintain concentration for a long period.
Meeting different consumer needs with functional carbohydrates
To address this, manufacturers can leverage functional ingredients like BENEO’s Palatinose™ for their ability to offer a balanced supply of glucose energy.
Derived from sugar beet, Palatinose™ is fully yet slowly digestible and low-glycaemic, contributing to an increased fat-burning rate since active consumers can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer. It also provides full carbohydrate energy in a sustained way, eliminating unwanted blood sugar spikes. Additionally, scientists have found that products containing Palatinose™ can help enhance a person’s mood and memory skills3 — two important factors in e-sports.
Palatinose™ is ideal for use in various applications as it comes with a mild sugar-like sweetening profile, is soluble, and has very low hygroscopicity — which allows it to absorb virtually no moisture and remains stable under harsh processing conditions, meaning it can be used to create a wide range of sports drinks powders, bars, and other applications.
Furthermore, the physiological benefits of Palatinose™ also make it the ideal functional ingredient for use n products aimed at athletes, those targeted at casual fitness users, or those who are beginning to get active.
The potential of the sports nutrition market is one that manufacturers should pay attention to, especially with a significant driver such as e-sports making waves across the board. Luckily, food manufacturers are well-poised to leverage the market’s potential with functional ingredients, enabling them to unlock opportunities for themselves while delivering the nutritional needs of a wider and more mainstream audience.