Mar 29, 2018

Is Millenial a behaviour and what does it mean for the sports nutrition market

Gillian Waddell, Managing Director Fuel PR, examines the vitamin and sports nutrition market

For some time the lifestyle and sports nutrition industry has targeted a significant amount of their marketing budget at the millennial market – embracing concepts such as ‘Millennial Lifestylists’ and their potential to turn sports nutrition increasingly vegan.

For example, Scitec, one of Europe’s leading sports nutrition brands, has developed a vegan protein powder, due to consumer demand. However, others in the industry, and indeed the consumer economy as a whole, have questioned whether ‘Millennial is a behaviour’ – rather than a tag that merely applies to a specific group of people – notably ‘Generation Y’, who are now aged 21 to 37, by most experts’ definition. In essence, it’s generally very important for marketers to breakdown consumers into more than mere age brackets, so the millennial drive for health and wellness is no doubt filtering down into Generation X and up into older age ranges. Indeed, technology, science and access to information have all led to a holistic growth in wellness and nutrition – and there are now millions of people in the UK who have a healthy obsession with the gym and well being, whether aged 18 or 80.

There’s also research suggesting that millennials are alike to other consumers when it comes to brand loyalty, which may indicate more of a homogenization of consumers habits as we head through 2018 and beyond. Nevertheless, millennials, virtue of their age, remain a very interesting market for the sports and lifestyle nutrition brands to target.

Why the Millennial SN Market Could Be Lucrative for Life

In 2015, research by the TABS Group studied consumer trends in vitamin and sports nutrition products, analysing a market which at the time, they estimated to be worth around $2.6 Billion, with almost 40 per cent of adults over age 18 buying products in the category. The study suggested that there was a strong inverse relationship between age and the usage of SN products (Protein powders, Performance pills and Ready-to-drink): “There is a strong correlation between age and usage of sports nutrition products. Light users gradually drop from a consistent 22 per cent in the years leading up to age 40, then a gradual drop off to less than ten per cent around age 60. By age 70, consumption is non-existent. Heavy users peak between ages 25 and 29 at 40 per cent, followed by a gradual decline until age 40 and a very sharp drop after age 40. Heavy users also become non-users by age 70.”

However, is the assertion that the ‘Sports Nutrition Market Dominated by Younger Buyers’useful for marketers targeting the SN market during the next decade and beyond? With the global sports nutrition market predicted to be worth over $45 Billion by 2022, it’s a vital question.

Which brings us back to the millennials and their potentially very significant place in the market. As the first generation in the UK to grow-up with the influence of magazines like Men’s Health and mainstream sports nutrition products, Millennials as a group, may be a very dynamic market niche over the next few decades.

Naturally, given the immature age of the sports and lifestyle nutrition industry, it has not yet witnessed a generation of users migrate through the full cycle of a consumer. For example, there are millennials who started using sports supplements aged 18, who are now in their mid to late 30’s – and they’re still using them!

Many millennials do not intend to stop training with weights and have a life-long (healthy) addiction to fitness and nutrition. It’s therefore very possible that the sales of nutritional products to those in the ‘millennial age bracket’ will not decline – they could even increase. That said, what marketers do need to consider, is whether the products they buy will change – for example, will they turn sports nutrition more vegan due to more interest in wellness. Similarly, there is a huge market for anti-ageing in this market, with supplements such as testosterone boosters and protein designed to stimulate protein synthesis in older trainers.

Of course, the concept that millennial is a behaviour and not a specific demographic, still has a lot of truth to it, in a wider context. In the modern world, age is increasingly just a number, and a brand’s market for a protein RTD could be based on who someone is – rather than their age. That said, as millennials mature – there is still likely to be a new market emerging that is related directly to the age in which they were born.


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