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Growth in the global sales of sports nutrition products have been driven by one unexpected group of consumers made up of people who are not necessarily interested in sports, according to NutraIngredients.com.

Tagged as ‘lifestyle users’ by the market research firm Datamonitor, these consumers are “the last group that was expected to embrace sports nutrition products, but in the last few years they have become a crucial part of the market”, the report said.

The emergence of this relatively new consumer base as a driver for the market is having a knock-on effect on the category as a whole, with a fundamental shift in approach likely to be needed in order to keep up with the changing consumer patterns.

According to Richard Parker, senior consumer analyst at Datamonitor, sports nutrition consumers can be split into four main groups: bodybuilders, athletes, recreational users (who pursue sport as a hobby) and lifestyle users.

Lifestyle users, he said, are not necessarily very athletic, but are choosing to consume sports nutritional products as an initial building block in leading a healthier lifestyle.

“Formulating products which cater to their needs is (…) crucial. They want to feel that they are engaging in healthy practices through consumption, so products must be positioned as a great tasting, healthy indulgence.”

With the market being driven by this new group, the category’s traditional consumers will require more effective, targeted sports nutrition products. They will want to disassociate from these other groups and products, so foods and beverages targeting this market must emphasize highly scientific benefits rather than adopting a ‘suitable for all’ ethos, the report said, quoting Datamonitor.

Figures from Euromonitor place the global sports nutrition market at US$4.7 billion (NZ$6.9 billion) in 2009, led by North America US$3.2 billion and western Europe, US$713.6 million.

Datamonitor, which classifies sports nutrition as sports drinks and energy bars, places the European market (including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the UK) at US$2.8 billion in 2008, with a forecast to reach $3.6 billion by 2013.

Datamonitor’s figures reveal that Germany is currently the largest market, while Spain is forecast to experience high levels of annual growth (9.8%) and become the leading market by 2013. By contrast, Germany is forecast to have a much lower level of annual growth (1.6%) in the same period.

The market researcher places US sports nutrition sales at U $2.9 billion in 2008, forecast to grow to $3.5 billion by 2013. The figures for Canada are US$165.8 million in 2008 and $200.8 million in 2013, while the South American market (including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) was worth $757.2 million in 2008, due to grow to $1.2 billion by 2013.

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