In the wake of fitness apps and bands, the sports nutrition market is gathering steam. According to Euromonitor International, this market in India is worth `1,376 crore, expected to grow at 22.8% CAGR by 2023. Several international and Indian sports nutrition brands have sprung up, vying for the attention of fitness enthusiasts.
The market comprises three segments: sports food, sports drinks and sports supplements. Largely, protein supplements that include whey protein and protein isolates, lead the market contributing 70% to the overall consumption in this segment. Apart from protein supplements, nutrition bars are finding acceptance, particularly in urban areas. Experts say food/ sports supplements are gaining popularity as Indians — particularly the vegetarian lot — increasingly feel the need to ‘meet their protein requirements’ in order to stay healthy.
In the sports nutrition category, imported products dominate the market with 80% share and the rest is contributed by domestic players. Glanbia, an Irish company, is one of the major players in this category with 50% market share, followed by MuscleTech, Ultimate Nutrition and General Nutrition Centers (GNC). The rest is contributed by domestic players such as MuscleBlaze (10%), Big Muscle and new entrants, namely Six Pack Nutrition, AS-IT-IS Nutrition, Proburst, Daaki, Proquest Nutrition and Parag Milk Foods’ Avvatar.
Himmath Jain, co-founder and director, AS-IT-IS Nutrition (launched in 2018), says that the sports nutrition business is in for a change. “Indian brands are making their presence felt in the industry. We now have manufacturing units and technology, which was not available 25 years back.” Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and UP are key markets for the company.
The Mintel Global new products database indicates a 65% growth in sports nutrition product launches in 2018, compared to the 2015-2017 period in India. The data clearly shows a preference skew towards international brands. “Indian brands lack consumer trust because a few of them have compromised on quality. Consumers are, therefore, sceptical,” says Samit Mehta, founder, Six Pack Nutrition.
However, Mehta is hopeful that there is a lot of room to grow for Indians brands, as most international players do not have a large sales force to educate the target audience or to resolve queries of consumers. “That is where Indian brands can pitch in with good quality products and customer service.” On its website, Six Pack Nutrition offers free customised diet charts created by a team of sports nutritionists.
Price is another reason why consumers are favouring imported products — since local products are priced on par with their international counterparts, the choice is obvious to the discerning consumer. “Indian companies need to work on their pricing strategy. If the right product is sold not at a very exorbitant price, people would be happy to opt for an Indian brand,” says Nidhi Sinha, head of content, Mintel.
Filling the gaps
Consumers are still largely unaware of sports nutrition. In fact, some of them harbour negative perceptions about ‘supplements’. “The consumption of sports nutrition products is higher in the metro cities as people are more educated and inclined towards these products, and can afford them,” shares Anul Sareen, senior research analyst, Euromonitor International.
Consumers’ reluctance also stems from the fear of adulteration — cases of counterfeit imports and products not approved under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are commonplace. “As an industry, we have to continue to engage with the relevant regulatory authority to make them aware of all the malpractices. Companies also need to monitor imported products,” Mehta says.
These products could earlier be procured only through B2B channels; now they are available at dedicated sports nutrition stores like Neulife and Rikin, and e-commerce platforms. Distribution seems to be improving, but there is still a long way to go. Even though these products are stocked in supermarkets and specialist stores, it is often difficult to find the whole range in one place. “Furthermore, interiors are difficult to reach out to, because these products require refrigeration; such supply chain and storage infrastructure aren’t available in tier II and III markets,” Sareen says.