Helping Asian Consumers Meet Different Fitness Goals

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Sports nutrition continues to extend beyond catering to elite athletes to include consumers with different fitness habits and goals. Blood sugar management, sustained energy and the fat burning potential of sportified food is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers. By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO Asia Pacific

During the peak of the pandemic, many countries across Asia Pacific suspended the operations of recreational services—like gyms, sports clubs and fitness centres—in an effort to curb the spread. However, many consumers in Asia still found alternative ways to keep active. In Singapore for instance, home fitness equipment websites saw a huge surge in sales*.

This keen interest to maintain physical fitness corresponds with the region’s pre-pandemic fitness trends, which pegged the physical activity market at USD 240 billion* in 2019. Asia’s fitness trend is also mirrored in the sports nutrition market. One of the key drivers of this is sports drinks, which are typically used to replace the water and electrolytes that are lost through perspiration. Not only is the global sports drinks sector growing at a speedy pace of 4.5 percent* compound annual growth rate through to 2024, but Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing market for this space.


Slow-Release Carbohydrates, The Key Ingredient

Consumers today are spoilt for choice, with a plethora of sports nutrition products available at most stores and vending machines. Presently, most of these sports- and fitness- related products that are designed to increase energy contain ‘fast carbohydrates’ such as maltodextrin, glucose syrup and sucrose, which release glucose into the bloodstream quickly. The result is a rapid increase followed by a sudden decline in glucose levels in our body, known as the ‘boost and crash’ effect. While suitable for those in need of instant energy, these high-glycaemic carbohydrates are not ideal for those looking for endurance in their training, for day-to-day sports activities, or for achieving balanced energy levels throughout the day.   

There is, therefore, a market opportunity for products that contain slowly released carbohydrates, which helps to enhance fuel management and endurance by delivering full carbohydrate energy in a balanced and sustained manner, such as BENEO’s Palatinose. 

Also known as isomaltulose, this slow-release carbohydrate derived from sugar beet is unique because of its molecular structure. It consists of a glucose and fructose molecule—similar to sucrose. However, in contrast to sucrose, the linkage of the molecules is much stronger, which means that BENEO’s Palatinose takes longer to digest. Thus, it helps to provide a more steady and sustained energy supply, resulting in blood glucose levels that stay balanced—without sudden ups and downs. As Palatinose is able to maintain blood sugar levels and help with insulin balance, it can also help to improve fat metabolism. This is because insulin is a storage hormone. A low level of insulin leads to fat storage being minimised and helps to burn fat more effectively. Having a high fat-burning rate helps the body burns fat for energy, which then ensures that active consumers can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer.


Knowing Your Needs

Fitness consumers can generally be categorised in three main groups—“Athletes”, “Regular Actives” and “Sportive Eaters”. These groups tend to have different motivations for exercise, and do so at varying intensity levels. This, therefore, means that they have different requirements for the nutrients that they need to consume. Despite the difference in physiological needs, slowly released carbohydrates can play a monumental role across all three groups.

Consumers who train regularly and rigorously fall under the “Athletes” group. Efficient fuel management is vital for this performance-driven group, as they constantly push themselves to improve and surpass their limits. Palatinose helps to provide them with full carbohydrate energy in a sustained way while promoting fat oxidation.

The “Regular Actives” group are consumers who exercise recreationally—about three times a week—and look for sportified products to support their active lifestyles. This is the largest group where most consumers fall in, so it is an important demographic for food manufacturers to note. Their goal is to maintain a healthy body weight and improve body tone. With Palatinose resulting in increased fat metabolism in the long term, these consumers will therefore benefit from less fat accumulation.

The “Sportive Eaters” group is made up of consumers at the opposite end of the spectrum to athletes. This group strives for indulgence but with fitness characteristics. Their food and drink purchasing decisions are mostly influenced by weight loss motivators. They seek energy to get them through the day or to embrace a sportier lifestyle without the same level of activity as “Regular Actives”. These consumers do not engage in much exercise but consume sports products to look and feel good. As such, Palatinose will be a good fit for this group of consumers due to its low glycaemic properties and the mild, natural sweetness. 


Versatility Is Essential

While the functional benefits of a product can serve as a purchase motivator, taste and texture are still essential for products to become a regular feature in consumers’ shopping baskets.

Carbohydrate ingredients need to be able to deliver in terms of technical, as well as nutritional and functional benefits. Naturally derived from sugar beet, Palatinose has a natural, mild sugar-like taste and is ideal for use in almost all kinds of sports food and beverages, such as sports gels, bars, and drinks. Additionally, it is commonly used in wider applications like baked goods and confectionery.

Sports nutrition continues to extend beyond catering to elite athletes to include consumers with different fitness habits and goals. Blood sugar management, sustained energy and the fat burning potential of sportified food is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers. Many producers are looking into possibilities to sportify their portfolio to address different consumer needs and respond to the growing demand for sports nutrition amongst mainstream consumers. Alternative carbohydrates such as Palatinose can help manufacturers hit a homerun by assisting them in offering products that are aligned with the fitness goals of “Regular Actives” and “Sportive Eaters”. 

It will be exciting to see how the sports nutrition market evolves as it continues to adapt and grow.


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