Embracing Holistic Health

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Exploring greater consumer demand for food and beverage options that boost immunity and reduce vulnerability to disease—an interview with Rachel Marshall, technical engagement manager—NZMP sports and active lifestyles at Fonterra.

How has COVID-19 affected the market for sports nutrition? Why?

COVID-19 has impacted all industries in some way. So far, the sports and nutrition sector has remained steady and we are seeing some promising growth opportunities emerge. In recent months, consumer trends toward health-conscious behaviours have accelerated, with greater demand for food and beverages that are able to boost immunity and reduce vulnerability to disease and illness, including sports nutrition products.  

Another key trend is the rise of consumers who are choosing to work out from home as gyms remain closed or at limited capacity. While this has impacted demand for pre- and post-workout formulas in the sports nutrition segment, there has been an uptick in solutions focused on weight management and stress relief. In addition, functional ingredients that have been shown to enhance sleep are also on the rise as consumers better understand the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on their cognitive performance. 

These factors, coupled with an improved understanding of the benefits of protein on muscle health, immunity, and general wellbeing, have led to more consumers integrating protein in their diets through a variety of snacks, beverages, and supplements. In particular, demand for dairy protein has remained strong amid the pandemic as it is recognised globally for its ability to address a range of nutrition needs, ranging from physical performance to weight management and immunity. The Chinese government, for instance, has actively promoted dairy consumption in a bid to improve the public’s immune health during the COVID-19 outbreak, with official consumption guidelines published by local dairy associations recommending a daily intake of 300 g across different formats.  


What are NZMP’s predictions for the sports nutrition market for the next 5 years?

According to Euromonitor International, the global sports nutrition market grew 190 per cent at a compound annual growth rate of 7.9 percent between 2004 and 2018. Despite disruptions to key distribution channels as a result of COVID-19, global retail sales remained steady, with 2020 estimated to end at US$21.8 billion. As the consumer base continues to diversify and as new product innovations emerge and palatability improves, we believe the industry’s growth will continue to trend upwards over the next five years.  

While professional athletes and bodybuilders will continue to make up a significant proportion of the sector’s consumer base, the category is becoming increasingly appealing to mainstream consumers, with recreational and lifestyle users being expected to drive demand due to increased health awareness and rising disposable income levels. Even those who have little interest in sports are now looking to products such as ready-to-drink nutritional beverages and protein bars as meal replacements or better for you snacks. As a result, the lines between products tailored for athletes and those offered for everyday consumers who want to live a healthier lifestyle have begun to blur. 

This presents greater opportunities for new product development to deliver novel innovations for different demographics. Recent launches have largely been focused on two areas. The first is protein fortification of everyday foods such as cookies and ice cream, and improved taste and texture for traditionally sports focused formats such as bars and protein shakes to increase their appeal to mainstream consumers. The second is the integration of health promoting ingredients that provide benefits beyond physical performance, such as probiotics which are widely recognised as being beneficial for digestive health and immunity, with some evidence in areas such as mental health or weight management, all of which appeal to the full spectrum of nutrition consumers.

Additionally, personalisation of sports nutrition will continue to be front-and-centre of brands’ efforts to stand out from their competitors and to meet the needs of consumers seeking products tailored to their specific needs and goals, which can vary significantly between a bodybuilder and a mainstream lifestyle consumer. 

Looking ahead, a renewed and increased focus on preventive health is expected to drive demand for health and wellness products that help address key concerns including immunity, stress, and cognition. This creates potential for specialty ingredients that can deliver these benefits, including probiotics and milk phospholipids, to play a greater role in product formulations. 


How can Milk Phospholipids 70 provide functional benefits to consumers with an active lifestyle?

Consumers are increasingly embracing the notion of holistic health – that health and wellness are interlinked and encompass both physical and mental aspects. With growing scientific evidence that diet is as important to mental wellbeing as it is to physical health, they are now seeking nutritional solutions to support stress, mood, and cognitive performance. 

According to FMCG Gurus, more than 80 percent of global consumers plan to maintain healthier lifestyles going forward, and 79 percent of people plan to improve their diets as part of this. 

One way of doing so is through the inclusion of milk phospholipids in diets. They are naturally present in milk as part of the milk fat globule membrane and have a broad range of holistic health benefits across all life stages, including cognition, mood, muscle mass and strength, and anti-inflammation. They have also been clinically proven to address the effects of stress, helping individuals maintain performance by staying focused and positive. 

More importantly, phospholipids are an essential component of all cell membranes within the body and brain. As we age, brain phospholipid levels decline, but it can potentially be ameliorated by phospholipid supplementation as digested dietary phospholipids absorb easily and can cross the blood-brain barrier. 

Our newly launched NZMP Milk Phospholipids 70 is a complex lipid that supports mood and cognitive performance under stress. It is also high in beneficial whey protein, which is recognised to support the building of muscle mass and recovery. This natural ingredient has a neutral flavour and its characteristics mean it can be applied to various product food and beverage formats, including nutritional bars and ready-to-mix beverages; along with supplements. This allows food manufacturers to deliver stress management benefits in a range of forms, tailored to consumers’ lifestyle needs. 


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