Manufacturers Rev Up With Energy and Sports Products

While Gatorade has its ups and downs, the rest of the sports/energy category continues to innovate with protein, hydration, electrolytes and whole food ingredients.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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It's clear that foods and drinks with nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes can help fuel a workout and sports activities or facilitate recovery from either one. To stay energetic, many athletes turn to high-energy drinks and nutrition bars as nutrient-dense snacks in addition to healthful, balanced meals.

ReMuscleHealth BarsProtein is also critical for muscle health. Myos, Cedar Knolls, N.J., recently launched the Re Muscle Health line of non-GMO protein bars, shakes, pudding mixes and ready-to-eat powders that are designed to help rebuild, rejuvenate and maintain lean muscle. The line accomplishes this through a fertilized egg-based protein and a lipid complex that increases protein synthesis and inhibits muscle degradation pathways while reducing serum myostatin activity. Myos says myostatins are a major regulator of muscle size and functionality.

Myostatin is also a natural regulatory protein that inhibits muscle growth and recovery. "It is becoming increasingly apparent that muscle is a master regulatory tissue, which is critical to metabolic and physiologic stability," says Myos Chairman Robert Hariri. He says lowering myostatin levels can increase muscle mass, manage a healthy weight, improve energy levels, stimulate muscle healing and treat sarcopenia, a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass.

Each Re Muscle Health product has 20g of protein. The line comes in six flavors and can be used daily as a snack or meal replacement. "Fortetropin, the active ingredient in Re Muscle Health, is clinically proven to build healthy lean muscle," explains Doug Weekes, Myos' chief commercial officer.

Protein has also been muscling its way into various other sports and energy foods, such as granola bars, cereals, snacks and even conventional products, because it functions as a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, tissue, skin and blood. Protein's B vitamins help release energy, keep the nervous system functioning properly and help in the formation of red blood cells. Many sports and energy food companies are boosting their products’ protein profiles to meet the needs of fitness-minded consumers, often blending several proteins to create an effective balance of amino acids. The most balanced animal proteins are egg and whey, the standards by which other proteins are judged.

Sports nutrition bars continue to focus on vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, but especially protein. What Mintel calls the U.S. nutritional bar market will grow slowly in the coming years, as the market is driven by demand for healthy foods. Nutritional bars are perceived as healthier than snack and cereal bars, Mintel says.

Serious athletes have been asking for an energy bar that isn’t overly sweet. Coming on the market is a new set of nutrition bars made with savory flavors and whole food ingredients in flavor names and combinations that sound more like a meal than a dessert. As a result, there are important shifts in brand positioning, benefits and product claims.

In May, PowerBar, Parsippany, N.J., renovated two of its namesake long-lasting energy bars: Harvest Bars and Triple Threat Bars. Each is positioned somewhere between a between-meal snack and an energy product. Harvest Bars are now gluten-free, come in seven flavors, pack 10g of protein and have a "clean" list of ingredients. They promise "long-lasting energy." The revised Triple Threat line claims to help build lean muscle and provide sustained energy. It has improved layered flavors, 12g of protein and 3g of fiber. Savory flavor combinations include Clif Bar & Co.'s  Clif's Athlete Series of organic energy foods, which come in squeezable pouches. Flavors such as Banana Beet with Ginger, Sweet Potato with Sea Salt and Pizza Margherita were inspired by the home recipes of Team Clif Bar athletes. Each of the four varieties is organic, gluten-free and designed to provide energy from real food ingredients, while satisfying cravings for fruit or salty comfort food.

ClifAthlete Food Pizza MarghertiaThe Athlete Series contains no partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or synthetic preservatives and sources ingredients that are not genetically engineered. The organic sunflower seed butter in Pizza Margherita delivers some fat and protein for longer-duration training and racing, while the organic bananas in Banana Mango with Coconut provide glucose and fructose for energy.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Clif Bar rolled this sweet/savory collection out last February. "Athletes are increasingly taking a simpler approach to performance nutrition, so we combined real food ingredients in a convenient, resealable pouch,” says Chris Randall, senior brand manager of the Clif Performance Athlete Segment. “Our athletes say these savory recipes help combat palate fatigue, allowing them to consume the nutrition their bodies need during longer-duration activities.”

Goodbye, Gatorade?

There are shifts in consumer behavior and culture that are disrupting the energy and sports drinks markets. Sports and protein drinks cater primarily to athletes and active consumers, but the consumer profile is changing, and the product categories are trying to stay relevant by chasing health and organic beverage trends.

Consumers just aren't drinking as many sports drinks as they once did, and sales have been somewhat deflated by teas and smoothies. The number of consumers who drink eight or more sports drinks a month is lower, offset by more casual sports drink users joining the consumer ranks, according to Packaged Facts' February 2015 report “Functional Foods: Key Trends by Product Categories and Benefits.”

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