Fueling consumers’ gains

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Fueling consumers’ gains

By Michael Johnsen - 04/20/2018
The sports nutrition segment represents a significant opportunity for retailers, with SPINS reporting that protein supplements alone accounted for almost $4 billion in mass retail and specialty outlet sales last year — but is it worth the potential headache?

By and large, consumers shopping the sports nutrition category represent an aspirational shopper who is committed to getting fit and also willing to spend the money to accomplish those goals over a condensed time frame. But on the other hand, the segment’s profit-boosting SKUs can turn into a product liability mindset in the hands of a shopper with an “if-two-is-good-four-is-better” mindset.

Recognizing the double-edged sword of the segment, the Council for Responsible Nutrition recently hosted a webinar aimed at helping better navigate the space.

“Sports nutrition consumers are uniquely committed to improving performance, looking better or recovering faster,” Duffy MacKay, CRN’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said during the webinar. “Dietary supplements can play an incredibly important role in keeping athletes healthy, active and able to perform.”

Numbers show that consumers recognize the potential benefits of sports nutrition products. A SPINSights report published last year on protein found that as many as 66% of Americans said they were looking to consume “as much protein as possible.” This need has helped feed growth across several sports nutrition segments, including liquid protein and meal replacements.

To take advantage of that consumer need without incurring too much risk, retailers need to vet the sports nutrition companies seeking space on their shelves, CRN’s experts said.

“From a legal perspective, all of the usual concerns that a company would have in the broader dietary supplement industry apply to sports nutrition,” Rick Collins, a founding attorney of the Collins Gann McCloskey and Barry firm, said. “There needs to be a manufacturing agreement in place that deals with issues of loss, contamination and indemnification. There needs to be insurance for the product, including recall insurance. The same concerns for label compliance under DSHEA and the avoidance of unsubstantiated claims apply.”

Consumers are looking for that additional level of accountability, and there is an emerging traceability trend taking shape across the industry that is akin to the gravitation toward cleaner labels and more transparency.

CRN’s Supplement OWL, an industry-wide dietary supplement product registry, may help retailers identify optimal sports nutrition partners, the webinar said. Manufacturers who have bought into the product registry are able to upload product information and documentation and choose who will have access to that information — down to the retailer or regulator.