Today’s savvy consumers are the dynamic force behind changes across multiple health-and-wellness categories. Add a pandemic into the mix and we begin to see several new trends emerge, particularly within the sports nutrition, weight loss and meal replacement segments.
Many of these so-called savvy consumers are members of today’s visual culture, which some have dubbed the “Look at Me” generation. They are the driving influence behind changes we see today. Pandemic or not, these mainly younger consumers have made it their priority to stay in shape and always look their best regardless of — or despite — what’s going on in the world around them.
When health clubs closed and in-person group training was not an option, people went old school. They dug out old treadmills from their basements; bought used equipment from Facebook Marketplace or purchased new gear if they could find it; signed up for online classes; and some even ventured outside to walk or bike around their neighborhood. During this period, we also saw the rise in popularity of digital community workouts, where people willingly shelled out big bucks each month for the motivation, support and connectivity interactive platforms, such as Peloton and Mirror, offered.
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Matt Wohl, president and CEO of Cliff-Cartwright, based in Wellesley, Mass., noted that when competitions and races were shut down last year, sports and sports nutrition took on an entirely new look. “With no need for ‘race day’ training and a greater focus on at-home workouts, consumers shifted their attention to everyday functional solutions and that has carried through to today,” Wohl said.
“These consumers are making buying decisions based on this expanded view of the category’s role and their changing workout and conditioning routines,” said Wohl, whose company is best known for its Hotshot line of sports shots.
It seems when it came to watching what they ate during the pandemic, people fell into one of two camps — some did much better because they were not eating every meal out while others found comfort in normally avoided foods and packed on the weight. Consequently, in addition to seeing more people working out this year, we are seeing a surge in the number of people looking to shed a few pounds in a healthy, safe manner.
Given this, it’s not surprising that sales of weight management products have been on the rise this year, and researchers predicted sales will continue to climb. According to market research firm Technavio, the weight loss supplement market is projected to reach $5.9 billion by 2024 and is growing at a CAGR of more than 5%. The growing obese population, the firm noted, has been instrumental in driving continued growth in the market.
Mirroring trends being seen in sports nutrition, today’s meal replacement products have undergone a dramatic transformation recently. What was once part of a quick-fix trend that lacked quality and flavor, the latest generation of meal replacement products offers nutritionally complete, well-rounded options with simple, limited ingredient profiles.
Given that meal replacements are no longer considered a niche product, who these products appeal to has expanded as well. Originally, the primary audience consisted of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts looking to fuel their active lifestyles, but current products are being tailored to appeal to different usage groups.
Some offer fitness support while others aid digestive health, and a growing number of new entrants are targeting consumers with specific medical needs, including those who are looking to increase muscle mass or shed weight.
As one report noted, new entries are being driven by functionality and accessibility, and appeal to anyone who considers themselves “health conscious,” including those following a vegan, keto or paleo diet. This trend is expected to drive introductions of new products and fuel the launch of more plant-based, nondairy meal replacements.