Healthy Developments for Sports Bars, Beverages

Firm expects 6% retail-wide growth of sports drink category, 14% for nutrition bars in 2013

For manufacturers of sports drinks and nutrition bars, individual sporting activities can’t grow fast enough.

Meanwhile, sports-drink makers—who see males as their core consumer—have an opportunity to appeal to a greater number of female users. The inverse applies to nutrition bars, where it’s female consumers carrying the category, with strong opportunities to increase male consumption.

These were among the trends revealed in “The Sports Nutritionals Market in the U.S.: Sports Drinks and Nutrition Bars,” a report sponsored by Rockville, Md.-based market research firm Packaged Facts.

The firm estimates that U.S. retail sales of sports drinks will reach $7.4 billion in 2013, reflecting 6% growth. As was the case with many other beverage categories, the market for sports drinks hit a trough in 2008 and 2009 as the recession forced consumers to pull back from a wide range of discretionary expenditures. 

There is a clear, pronounced difference in regards to who represents the highest-volume users of sports drinks and nutrition bars, according to Packaged Facts. Women lead the market for nutrition bars: Among consumers who have eaten at least one nutrition bar in the past 30 days, 55% are women. Female consumers of nutrition bars outnumber their male counterparts 15.2 million to 12.4 million, and continue to offer a major opportunity for sales of nutrition bars as well as other sports nutritionals.

In contrast, men account for 64% of high-volume users of sports drinks, and younger men are the most likely to use sports drinks, according to the report. Yet marketers should keep their eye on demographic trends: The population of males under the age of 25, their most coveted consumer target, will decline over the next decade as the aging of America accelerates.

Moreover, Packaged Facts found that consumers pursuing individual sports and fitness activities, rather than team-sport players, are the key to success in the retail sports nutritional market.

When it comes to targeting prime consumers of sports nutritional products, 6.3 million fitness walkers comprise the single largest and most attractive market segment. Those taking yoga classes (1.3 million) as well as those pursuing outdoor activities such as mountain biking (1.5 million) and camping and backpacking (1.2 million each) are more numerous than the soccer, football, softball, baseball or volleyball players using these products.

Looking at the sports nutrition market as a whole, 2010 marked the recovery of the economy, and PepsiCo’s revival of the Gatorade brand led to a rebound in sales in the sports-drink category.

Nutrition bars, similarly, have experienced improved performance over the past three years, posting double-digit growth. Packaged Facts projects category growth at 14% in 2013 on sales of $2.6 billion.

Some marketers are seeing opportunities in the sports-drink market by appealing to young consumers.

Dr. Brenda Jones, an Ohio-based ophthalmologist, launched a sports drink brand called AlleyOop, with distribution currently being done in Miami/Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties in South Florida. 

The first flavor, Citrus Grind, has 40 calories per 16-ounce serving, 10 grams of sugar and 10 grams of carbohydrates. Dr. Jones told Convenience Store Products that “youths and teens will now have beverage options that provide great taste and active functionality.” AlleyOop retails for $1.99.

Combining cane sugar, stevia and splenda, AlleyOop achieve a sweetness that’s appealing to the young palate, but maintains low sugar and carbs and is gluten-free.

A devoted athlete, Dr. Jones says the idea for AlleyOop came about because—not counting water—there were no isotonic products on the market that had lower levels of sugar or calories to her liking following her workouts.

With Packaged Facts projecting the population of males under the age of 25 declining over the next decade, the launch of a brand such as AlleyOop has a chance to build the new consumer base at the ground floor.

For more on the growing better-for-you kids beverage market, watch for the August issue of Convenience Store Products.