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Muscle and Strength Products: Outlook in 2022

Muscle and Strength Muscle and Strength

Does this subset of the marketplace look firm or flabby in the year ahead?

In the 1930s Popeye was a big deal. Unlike modern-day cartoon characters, however, this ragtag, fast-talking sailor wasn’t pushing sugary cereals and candy to kids. Instead, he encouraged young viewers to eat vegetables—in particular, spinach—to get strong and have muscles that popped. Popeye was later replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jane Fonda aerobics as fitness icons in the 80s when exercise and health grew more popular.

One thing hasn’t changed though: Americans’ interest in physical fitness and building muscle and strength. Sure, the outcomes desired might have looked different over the decades, but the underlying desire to be strong and healthy hasn’t waned. Now more than ever, individuals are focused on getting greater gains at the gym or slimming and sculpting their muscles via a host of exercise options. Whether that’s barre workouts, serious weightlifting, at-home bodyweight exercises, HIIT workouts or other options, the desire beneath the fitness is the same: build or maintain muscle and strength.

Individuals have also recognized that certain natural health products may promote more of what they’re seeking. Besides the desire to build strength and develop muscles further, are there other issues trending in this area now? What’s new and innovative in the muscle and strength marketplace and what ingredients are suppliers and manufacturers most interested in currently? These issues and others will be addressed, with industry experts weighing in on this popular submarket.

Trending Issues in Muscle and Strength

While Millennials and Gen Xers might hit the gym to gain—or maintain—their physique, older individuals are frequently more interested in fighting the natural progression of aging. For men, that means a reduction in testosterone and for women, an increase in estrogen. Both changes tend to lead to weight gain.

“Specific concerns around muscle and strength tend to vary depending on demographics,” said Vicky Davies, global marketing director of Performance and Active Nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients based in the Netherlands. “For example, older consumers may want to increase their muscle mass and strength to maintain independence as they age, as well as to ensure they’re as strong as possible should they become ill or require medical interventions like surgery,” she noted. Additionally, younger people are “a driving force” in the market for muscle and strength solutions, she stated, and are interested in improving their overall fitness and sports performance generally. “There is cross-over in these consumer concerns, however, despite how different they may seem. At the heart of wanting to improve muscle strength is a desire to live life to its fullest potential by improving overall health and wellness,” said Davies.

But what trends in this market are affecting all demographics? Clean ingredients are at the top of the list for most consumers. At BIO-CAT, Inc., in Troy, VA, Senior Vice President of Business Development & Marketing, Mark Walin, stated that what a product doesn’t contain is as important as what it does. “Today, the muscle and strength market has dramatically expanded to include consumer segments that are specifically looking for natural ingredients, non-animal derived proteins, and clean labels,” Walin noted. “Rather than looking for ‘off-label’ benefits, consumers are seeking assurance that the products they consume deliver both beneficial outcomes and are safe.” In many cases, Walin explained, that means deciding on which sports nutrition products to purchase based on what the product does not contain.

The continued interest in protein supplementation is a trend that Davies has noticed and one which has only grown during the pandemic. “As consumers want to improve their overall health … they are increasingly turning to exercise, and consequently, also to protein. In fact, research shows that foods containing natural dairy proteins are some of the top products consumers turn to when they’re looking for an additional health boost,” stated Davies. She believes that this, in turn, is creating an interesting increase in the protein category, one that is “ripe for innovation.” “Every day consumers are seeking out protein-fortified foods, like snacks, to help them build or maintain muscle and improve their strength and athletic performance,” she noted.

Bodybuilders, in particular are looking for the most effective ingredients possible anchored by whey protein, stated Corbin Hohl, team lead at Glanbia Nutritionals, based in Illinois. While this group prefers better-tasting powders, RTDs (ready-to-drinks), and bars, potency still rules, Hohl explained. Among the different demographic groups, Hohl noted distinct muscle and strength product requirements. “Younger consumers are focused on building muscle, lean physique and recovery. Older consumers are concerned about the ebbing of muscle and to a lesser degree, strength,” said Hohl. “They are concerned with staying fit, sarcopenia, muscle wasting and joint health. The largest barrier to the category is consumers not understanding the benefits of products and why they should consume them.”

While protein is certainly important Walin noted, individuals are interested in the type of protein a product contains. “Increasingly, consumers are aware that the number of grams of protein is only one part of the equation.” Individuals are concerned with the type of protein—plant vs. animal—its source, purity, and efficacy, noted Walin. How is the digestibility of the product? How are the branched-chain amino acids released? These are just a couple of the questions consumers are asking themselves at the store shelves, he said.

Current State of The Market for Muscle & Strength

With so much focus during the pandemic on immune support and the always-high interest in weight loss promotion and energy support products, one might think that the muscle and strength category is languishing now. That’s not the case, said Harald Gumhold, a sales and marketing expert at Schalk Muehle Gmbh & Co KG, based in Austria. “The natural ingredients market is strong and [has been] growing for some time now,” Gumhold stated. In fact, during COVID-19, individuals are thinking about the origin and contents of their food more than ever he explained. “Regarding products for muscle and strength, we are seeing more interest in our organic protein powders with higher protein content, such as Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder with 65 percent protein content and Sunflower Seed Protein Powder with 50 percent protein content, which can be used as an ingredient for such products,” Gumhold stated.

What’s New and Innovative in Muscle & Strength Products and Ingredients?

Durrell Washington, senior marketing manager of Glanbia Nutritionals noted that innovative delivery systems including gummies, RTDs, healthy snacks and personalized nutrition, continue to grow in popularity. “Meal replacements as a segment are being repositioned by certain brands, such as Huel and Foodspring, as complete nutrition or smart nutrition,” noted Washington.

Angie Rimel, marketing manager at GELITA based in Iowa, explained that collagen is an up-and-coming ingredient that shouldn’t be overlooked. “Collagen is considered one of the most versatile and important ingredients in modern health and nutrition markets,” she said, “Including in functional foods.” While collagen is well-known for its use in both topical beauty and personal care products like body lotions, face creams and more, Rimel stated, new studies are pointing toward its effectiveness when ingested.

Collagen supplementation shouldn’t be considered a “one-size-fits-all” solution though, Rimel cautioned. “Different collagen peptides offer optimized benefits for different areas of the body. Research shows that GELITA Bioactive Collagen Peptides are optimized to maximize the stimulatory effects on specific cells in the body … and, the level of stimulation is different for varying collagen peptide compositions.”

Rimel also noted that many consumers today are experiencing, “pill fatigue” and are actively seeking out new delivery formats. “They don’t want another pill, they want an experience,” she stated. “Here, collagen peptides allow for a wide range of formulations, for example, powder, gel, gummies, concentrated shots, near-waters and bars, and inclusion in everyday foods, such as yogurt.”

Today’s Manufacturers and Suppliers: What Are They Most Interested in?

With more easily accessed information available to most Americans, Steve Fink, vice-president of marketing for PLT Health Solutions in New Jersey, highlighted the importance of science-backed research and transparency. Fink noted, “In formulating products for the muscle and strength market, everything starts with high-quality science on both safety and efficacy.” Because this group of consumers is extremely well-educated, Fink explained, they want to see the science behind the claims. With greater transparency online now, it’s more and more simple for individuals to dig deeper into the claims of companies to see if what they’re promoting is in fact true.

Trust is a big issue, concurred Brett Bernier, director of sports and active nutrition, also of PLT Health Solutions. “Today’s new sports nutrition products feature more branded ingredients backed by quality clinical science than ever. If you look at Amazon, 90 percent of the top-selling pre-workout products currently contain at least one branded ingredient. Our own consumer research shows us that 92 percent of regular gym-goers prefer science-supported claims in their pre-workout formulations.”

Likewise, Bernier noted, novel, convenient delivery systems are becoming increasingly important to consumers in both pre-workout and everyday use products. “Water-dispersible ingredients with a clean organoleptic profile can meet this need,” he stated.

Manufacturers and Suppliers: How to Best Meet Their Needs

There are many considerations manufacturers and suppliers must weigh when it comes to meeting consumer needs. What are the “best tips” from the experts featured in this article?

“It is important to consider the product form—will it be in a powder or liquid form,” said Gumhold. “Liquid form would require a protein powder ingredient that is highly soluble in water.”

Fink explained that everything in the formulation of products for the muscle and strength market starts with high-quality science—in both safety and efficacy. “This is a very educated consumer group, and they need to have faith in the science and experience tangible results,” he noted. “Traceable, clean label ingredients are also important. Consumers have a lot of ingredient choices these days and they pay attention to the origin stories of the ingredients they consume. Finally, delivery system types will proliferate to enhance the user experience,” Fink said. “Convenience is critical.”

Rimel agreed that transparency is key for today’s consumers and believes that manufacturers and suppliers which focus on this area will come out ahead. “Now more than ever, active consumers are interested in clean labels and transparency. Therefore, they will be looking for natural products backed by science,” she said.

Walin agreed that consumers are extremely interested in the origin of the products they purchase. Not only in the ingredients that make up the product itself, but also in how the creation of it affects the environment and world around us. Sustainability, he noted, is always top of mind when creating products and positioning them. “Sustainable sourcing and manufacturing is an obvious place to start, but we suggest that it must continue through the entire process,” said Walin.

Palatability is something that Davies recognized as a key consideration for suppliers and manufacturers. Take protein bars for instance. “These products tend to harden over time, meaning they have a limited shelf life,” she explained. “With many consumers looking to support their muscle health as part of a healthier lifestyle, the market for products like high protein bars is significant,” said Davies. “But it can only really be unlocked by overcoming formulation challenges to make sure products are as tasty as they are functional.”

Along the same lines of taste, Hohl stated, “It’s important to have efficacious dosage and flavoring for that dosage, especially for ingredients with a strong, distinctive flavor. Appropriate messaging for active ingredients and impactful products is crucial for muscle and strength products.”

Future of the Muscle and Strength Products Marketplace

Greater transparency, more science-backed research and studies, more palatable food products, stronger sustainability practices, and of course, results, are all areas where consumers are focusing attention on the muscle and strength segment of the current health promotion market.

The outlook for this section of the natural health marketplace looks solid with more room to expand and evolve. Continued growth, new and innovative compilations and delivery methods, and a wide demographic served, are all likely to push this segment of the marketplace into continued growth in 2022 and beyond. NIE

For More Information:

BIO-CAT, www.bio-cat.com
Friesland Campina, www.frieslandcampina.com
Gelita, www.gelita.com
Glanbia Nutritionals, www.glanbianutritionals.com/en
PLT Health Solutions, www.plthealth.com
Schalk Muehle Gmbh & Co KG, www.schalk-muehle.at

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