BikeBiz speaks with energy and nutrition brand owners, founders and marketeers for their take on the sector

Cycle nutrition: Are there too many brands?

Are there too many energy and nutrition brands? Have consumers fully understand nutrition products and how to get the most from them? BikeBiz collates opinions from brand owners, founders and marketeers from some of sector’s biggest players…

Jimmy Docherty, Co-Founder

Is education a challenge for the cycle energy and nutrition sector?
Whilst the pros have a good knowledge of cycle energy and nutrition there is a lot of confusing and technical information out there for the consumer to understand. Marketing plays a big part here with the larger players often pushing people with far more product than they need for an event or training. Education is a big challenge as the consumer is flooded with information and supposed quick fixes of which a lot are irrelevant or not beneficial. It’s a small part of the big challenge of getting the general healthy eating message across.
Our products have actively been sought out by professional teams and individuals who believe that going natural and getting the nutritional balance right works for their bodies and improves their performance.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands? Is it healthy for the market?
We think the rapid growth in the market goes hand-in-hand with the boom in cycling. People have spied a business opportunity and started up. Competition is always healthy but consumers may get confused with new brands popping up all the time, not offering anything truly innovative and then seeing them disappear again…

What’s the future for the nutrition market?
The market in our view is becoming saturated so educating people should be high on the agenda.

Secret Training
Tim Lawson, Owner

Is education a challenge?
Education is a big challenge so there is still an important role for the educated specialist store. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and mixed messages. Sometimes suitability for purpose loses out to a nice marketing message. There’s been a lot of interesting science over the past ten years but often the basics are still overlooked.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands?
There has been a perfect storm drawing new brands into the UK and the cycle market. At a corporate level, boards noticed that the sports nutrition sector has grown much faster than regular food and margins were more robust. There has been an increased interest in protein for endurance athletes and cycling is now sufficiently large to gain the interest of firms that might otherwise have targeted body building-type sports.
At the other end, the entry costs to market of introducing a sports nutrition brand are not high, so there are many hobby-type businesses facilitated by contract manufacturers who can produce copies of more established brands (who often use the same contract manufacturers).

Sports nutrition is now seen as an essential part of the‘cycling package’ to keep customers coming into stores. In reality there are probably not any more nutrition brands than, for example, cycling helmets.

The sector is probably due a shake up. Those who have been around a while may remember Nutriquest, Dynamo, Extran, Maxim, Staminade, Pro gold, Liquid power, Umbro energy drink, or when Kendal mint cake was the go-to energy bar! So actually not so different than in the past but perhaps less dominant players than in the recent past.

What’s the future for the nutrition market?
Specialist retailers can provide an invaluable service to customers by providing good advice and nutritional products in store. Done properly this can improve customers’ cycling experience, keep them in the saddle longer and returning to store for more than an energy gel top up. Competition is good, there will be winners and losers but there’s nothing like a good race – there’s a bit of a shake up at the moment but there will probably emerge a few credible dominant brands that will well serve cycling and its important retailers. Let’s just hope ours is one of them!

There are companies making unsustainable losses fighting for market share – so some have found it harder to capture the reported higher margins and for those athletes that are drug tested, doing the screening and sourcing ingredients properly does add a layer of costs that are increasing barriers to entry.

OTE Sports
Matt Harrison, Managing Director and Co-Founder

Do consumers fully understand cycle energy and nutrition, or is education still a challenge?
I think understanding is improving but there will always be a need for education.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands? Is it healthy for the market?
The market is growing and that makes it attractive to new entrants which is great as it provides choice for the customer. We have seen a lot of new brands over the last couple of years (us included) but I think we’ll see a move towards consolidation in the market over 12 to 24 months.

High5 Advanced Endurance Nutrition
Raphael Deinhart, Technical and Marketing Coordinator

Is education a challenge?
Using sports nutrition products correctly leads to greater performance gains and enjoyment, especially for those new to cycling. As riders progress, they need extra energy, but are unsure what to take. This is where education makes such a big difference. At High5 we have developed step-by-step guides for cyclists to fuel and hydrate optimally during rides. These cover different distances, rider ability and bodyweight.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands?
Sports nutrition is a growing market with more companies looking to take advantage, but it’s important to understand it takes years to develop great products and even longer to establish trust in a brand. Many new brands are launching products that aren’t fully developed and tested in the real world racing. A bad experience can put consumers off. We also see many claims on products that are not approved health and nutrition claims, as new brands are not always familiar with the EU laws. Some of these claims cause confusion. Nevertheless we see competition as healthy and an important driver for growth in the sector. There are a lot of cyclists still not using sports nutrition, or not using it correctly. It’s a big area for further growth and we are excited about being a big part of that.

Osmo Hydration
Dr Stacy Sims & W.R. Garratt Jr, CEO

Do consumers fully understand cycle energy and nutrition, or is education still a challenge for the sector?
Sims: No, they don’t. There is mass confusion from marketing vs science. Moreover, cultural aspects still significantly impact an individual’s choice (e.g. due to the confusing messaging, a consumer will base their choice on what their idol/role model uses or what their coach recommends). Education is a challenge, and providing the education will remain a challenge due to the mixed messages of marketing vs science.

Garratt: I agree. They don’t, and education is still a challenge. The nutrition market is somewhat intimidating and overwhelming right now. The big, old school brands, which are based on decades-old science, are buying races and series and, they hope, the athletes competing in them. These massive marketing dollars are trying to squash the new science, making it hard on both consumers and retailers to know what to use, stock, and support. Fortunately, the shift to new science and thus healthier eating, living and performance, is happening on a macro scale that will eventually overwhelm the old school brands currently handicapping evolution.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands? Is it healthy for the market?
Sims: The revolution for change is here. Athletes no longer want to put up with GI distress, cramping, undue fatigue, and a one-size fits all approach to hydration and nutrition. The sector is growing due to this sea-change and it is healthy for the market.

Garratt: I agree. It’s growing because that’s a healthy and very necessary evolution for a fairly mature market. And because consumers are demanding change. They, women and parents especially, are saying “no more” to unhealthy, sugar- loaded gut bombs. They want clean and real, and this is likely only the beginning for healthy brands and healthy market growth.

What’s the future for the nutrition market?
Garratt: It’s very exciting to finally see true innovation in a market that has been unwilling to change. Stacy and her science are driving innovation that is great for everyone involved.

Athletes are all over the brands she started (Osmo, Skratch), utilising her “hydration in the bottle, food in the pocket” theory to amazing success and health. And the competition is obviously taking note with Clif, GU, and now nuun all changing their formulas to align with her game changing science. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the ‘new, new’!

Clif Bar & Company
David Smith, Senior Marketing Manager

Is education still a challenge for the sector?
Many consumers do not fully understand cycle energy and nutrition as it can be complicated. In addition, people’s needs vary based on the sport and how active they are. Cycling is a deeply traditional sport and sometimes the latest nutrition science does not get passed on, perpetuating outdated myths about how to eat on the bike for optimal performance.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands?
Sports nutrition brands are moving from niche markets of gyms and health food stores to mass-market. Driven by new ingredients, packaging formats and new consumer behaviour, sport products are heading into supermarkets to satisfy consumer demand for healthy and convenient lifestyle solutions.
Athletes have been the traditional consumers of sports nutrition products; however, there is growing interest from recreational and lifestyle users. This is great news for brands like CLIF Bar that provide great taste and texture and understand consumers’ desire for active, healthy lifestyles with foods that can meet those needs.

What’s the future for the nutrition market?
According to Mintel 2013, close to half (47 per cent) of British adults eat snacks on-the-go at least once a week, and this trend is growing among younger demographics. Retailers offering a range of wholesome snacks for on-the-go, including energy bars, will greatly benefit from this trend.

Historically, cycle retailers have led the way in offering a range of bars as their functionality fits well with their consumers. As new recreational and lifestyle users come into play, the trade as a whole will benefit. We hear from many cycle retailers that their customers are using CLIF Bar for long rides but also purchase the bars for snacks on-the-go when they need energy.

Matt Hart, founder

Do consumers understand energy and nutrition?
The reality is that they don’t. TORQ was born from a fitness consultancy and we have our heads into the research every day. When you fully understand nutrition and recognise how to research elaborate claims made by the media/unscrupulous manufacturers, it is a simple reasoning process. We stick to areas that are supported by a substantial body of evidence and filter out headline-grabbing lies. There are genuine innovations, which become increasingly apparent if you’re reviewing the literature regularly. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the confidence and knowledge that we have, it’s easy to be influenced negatively and a huge number of people who come through our consultancy are confused.

At TORQ, we have worked hard alongside our distributor Zyro to create a retailer accreditation scheme whereby a single member of staff within a store visits TORQ for the day (along with five or six others from different stores) to be educated. The staff member then has to complete an exam in their own time and achieve 95 per cent to achieve accreditation. We firmly believe that achieving accredited status should not be easy. Our aim is simple. To educate the retailer properly so that they can educate the customer properly and so far we have had over 70 UK stores go through this process.

In addition to this, TORQ attends numerous events nationwide to showcase the range and engage with the people using our products.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands?
I think that if you look at the statistics, the market is growing because cycling is growing. This would suggest on the face of it that there is room for more brands as long as existing brands are happy to share the market and can run productive businesses. This also gives the consumers choice, which is essential in a free market.
As purists at TORQ, who are extremely passionate about what we do and care about our customers, our only frustration is we’ve seen brands in the market that simply copy others, or assume that because there’s an expanding market, they will take a part of it by default. There are also still misleading claims made by some manufacturers.

However, this is always going to be the case in any market. There are going to be brands that aspire to different standards and ultimately the customer is the one who makes the choice. We have a firm belief that if we remain passionate and use our knowledge and experience to constantly innovate, we will receive our just desserts. It’s quite clear that with the number of brands that we have seen come and go in this sector, that the opposite is probably also true.

Science in Sport
Emma Barraclough, product development team, SiS

Is education still a challenge for the sector?
Definitely. There is no other area of science that is so influenced by what is written in the media, what your mate in your local club says or what the latest internet blog says. Generally people know that you need to take on board extra energy for long rides, but how much, what and when to eat is still confusing for many.
We spend a lot of time developing our products according to the latest science, and making sure that we religiously stick to what we are and aren’t allowed to say in terms of claims that we write on products. Unfortunately you do see a lot of other brands that are less scrupulous. All this just leads to confusion for the consumer.

Why is the sector growing with so many new brands?
I think this is a spill over from the general growth in cycling, there are more and more people buying bikes and starting to do more serious riding. The growth in the sportive market particularly creates a need for people to start looking at nutrition more seriously. Most people will be able to head out of the door for an hour or two ride, but to tackle a 100 mile sportive or go to Europe and do a big challenge requires people to prepare thoroughly, practice their nutrition in training and be familiar with how much they need to eat and drink.
I think it is healthy for the market. Competition will always make brands look at developing new products, being competitive on price, and deliver what consumers are looking for. I think the only danger is that brands go after what ever a current ‘trend’ ingredient, just to bring out something different, without researching it properly or claiming that it will do something that it will not.

What’s the future for the nutrition market?
I think one of the biggest challenges is to keep balancing the healthy diet messages with the cycling specific nutritional advice. No products can make up for a poor diet, and equally ‘real’ foods will not always be the best thing to eat out on the bike.

Sports nutrition should be about convenient energy sources, such as drinks, bars and gels, with nothing extra that will inhibit the products performance. For instance, a flapjack is a popular ride food, but they can be high in fat and fibre so are slow to digest and the energy will not be readily available. Energy bars are low in fat and fibre and will be easier on your stomach.

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This article was first published in the June edition of BikeBiz which you can read online. For details on how to receive the magazine monthly (trade only), click here.

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