Insights about Protein, Herbal/Traditional Products and e-Commerce

FitExpo Chicago’s 4th edition was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on June 9th – 10th, 2018. The event brought together vitamins and dietary supplements (VDS) and sports nutrition names such as Optimum Nutrition, Vital Proteins, fairlife, Muscle Monster, and Vegetarian Traveler together with retailers. Moreover, the event showcased health and fitness educational sessions, fitness competitions, and group exercise classes, among other events.

The majority of attendees were made up of Gen Z and Millennials. While traditionally these types of events have gathered more men, during this FitExpo edition it seemed that almost 50% of the audience were women. Below are four event highlights:

Protein is still the king

With most sports nutrition companies promoting their protein products such as Vital Proteins with collagen protein, Muscle Egg from egg whites, and Optimum Nutrition with whey, it was clear that protein is still the king in the sport nutrition industry.

Even though animal-sourced proteins such as whey and eggs have been historically more attractive to core sports nutrition users (ie, athletes and bodybuilders), FitExpo featured a Healthy Living Pavilion that highlighted plant-based proteins. The sessions were hosted by several professional vegan bodybuilders who are starting to emerge within core users. Combined, these vegan bodybuilders have more than a million active followers on social media and they all belong to a group called Founded in 2002 by vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, this is a growing team of athletes who promotes a healthy lifestyle, combining a vegan diet with resistance weight training. This group travels the country promoting their cruelty-free lifestyle.

These sessions focused on fitness, health, and plant-based diets. The speakers gave tips about plant-based protein sources such as soy, beans, lentils, and chick peas and how to live a cruelty-free lifestyle while still reaching fitness goals.

Vegan Bodybuilding Panel at the Healthy Living Pavilion

From Left to right: Vegan Bodybuilders Fraser Bayley, Dani Taylor, Ryan Nelson and Robert Cheeke

Source: Euromonitor International

Transparency for Gen Z and Millennials

Transparency was an important concern for the majority of the attendees. While Gen Z and Millennials have historically demanded more transparency from the food and beverage industry, they now expect the same in the sports nutrition industry.

Common questions from younger consumers that we overheard during the event included: “Where do the ingredients come from?” “Is it all sourced from US ingredients?” “What is this artificial sounding ingredient?” “Is this product organic?” “Is it plant-based?”

Gen Z and Millennials are increasingly concerned about ingredient sources and clean formulations. The industry has been pushed to innovate to match those young core consumers’ needs, such as moving away from artificial ingredients and complex labels to easy-to-understand clean labels that include claims like “no fillers or excipients”, “no proprietary blends”, “no artificial sweeteners”, “no artificial flavors”, “no artificial dyes”, “no preservatives”, “gluten free”, “non-GMO”, “organic”, “locally sourced” and “certified vegan”, among others.

Herbal/Traditional opportunity in sport nutrition

With the expansion of the sports nutrition consumer base, new consumers are looking for alternative, natural options to supplement their fitness needs. This opens an opportunity for herbal/traditional products to fill this gap. Exhibitors at the event, like REDD Remedies, are providing natural supplements for specific bodybuilder needs such as muscle pain relief based on ancient traditions like Ayurveda.

Herbal/traditional ingredients are being combined with modern science to offer innovative formats. Anti-inflammatory ingredients such as Curcumin (ie, turmeric) and boswellia, as a main ingredient or combined, are increasingly catching the attention of the core sport nutrition consumer. An example of this trend is REDD’s Curcumin T4 Chewable which contains a proprietary blend based on curcumin.

REDD both at the FitExpo

Source: Euromonitor International

CBD oils, a product extracted form hemp plants, is mainly for pain relief and is another herbal/traditional ingredient that is carving its path into the sports nutrition pain relief market. CBD companies recognize that one of the main challenges is consumer education. The goal is to teach consumers that CBD oils do not have a hallucinogenic effect.

Medical Mary CBD Oil at FitExpo

Source: Euromonitor International

Companies like Happy Mutant CBD are promoting their products with the hashtag #GetHealthyNotHigh to emphasize the safety of the product. Medical Mary, another CBD player, is also answering safety-related concerns while claiming to manufacture their CBD oils at the only FDA registered facility.

e-Commerce: The distribution and promotion path for small players

Some of the challenges that companies face in traditional retail and distribution channels are costs and the fight for shelf space. Selling online gives companies the opportunity to have their own store where they can offer all their products and to communicate directly with the consumer.

The online space also gives companies the opportunity to diversify platforms through their own websites and online retailers. Amazon is the key platform that many small players consider and it is where those players can significantly expand their reach. Becoming a best seller on Amazon helps to catch the attention of traditional brick and mortar retailers.

Discounts codes were offered during this show by players such as TRU Suplements, Nutrabio and Protein Topto to invite consumers to visit their respective platforms where, besides detailed product information, consumer reviews can be found.

E-Commerce sign at Vegetarian Traveler’s Booth – FitExpo

Source: Euromonitor International

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