Sports nutrition-driven snacking expected to return to pre-virus levels

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The Protein Ball Co. produces plant-based snacks that are high in protein and fibre. Pic: The Protein Ball Co.
The Protein Ball Co. produces plant-based snacks that are high in protein and fibre. Pic: The Protein Ball Co.

Related tags The Protein Ball Co. Sports nutrition plant-based Protein Gluten-free High fibre

BakeryandSnacks chats to The Protein Ball Co. founder Matt Hunt to find out what he believes the future holds for the sport’s nutrition category and where his brand fits into this realm.

The Protein Ball Co. is raising the snacking bar with its range of 100% natural, no added sugar, gluten-free but high in fibre protein + vitamin balls. That’s a big mouthful, but so are the balls that come in three variants: High Protein, Plant Protein and Breakfast-To-Go.

What’s the future of sports nutrition?

The trends suggest there’s going to be a bigger shift of people looking for plant-based nutrition supplements. In recent years, many large sports nutrition brands have expanded their vegan ranges to cater for this, but they often lack the flavour and nutritionals that the whey- or egg-based alternatives provide.

Our vegan range is a prominent part of our brand and we offer different types of plant-based proteins, including pea, brown rice and pumpkin protein to cater for the growing number of plant-based consumers.

Will sales of sports nutrition bars and supplements ever return to pre-virus levels?

Undoubtedly. While people were unable to access gym environments and focus so much on their strength due to limited resources, sports nutrition product sales dwelled. However, we expect to see a shift in the opposite direction, and if anything, this will have hopefully made people even more aware of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

There is also a big shift in the way end consumers purchase health products: online ordering has increased so much and online supplement, health and wellness brands are expanding their offerings and customers during this challenging period.

What are the key products in the category right now?

People are more mindful of their spending and getting the most for your money is key for consumers.

Alongside this, with the link between increased chances of catching COVID-19 and a healthy lifestyle, consumers will also be keeping an eye out for the healthier supplements.

Who do you see buying these products in the future?

Consumers with different fitness goals will purchase products for different reasons.

The number of people able to play their contact sports/compete at sport at present is limited and therefore there may be a slight dwindle from the elite consumer base.

Who are The Protein Ball Co's key consumers?

Sports nutrition plays a huge role among a whole host of lifestyles, from those looking to lose weight to those playing an elite level of sport – there are specific products for them all.

There’s also a huge range of products specific to consumers with various dietary requirements. Our product range targets a variety of these groups of people, some plant-based, some containing dairy, some aimed at people wanting an energy boost, and some aimed at those requiring more protein.

We also offer egg white protein along with our High Protein range. The sports nutrition category has been growing exponentially for years and with a slight dip, we believe it will continue to grow above and beyond the current levels.

What are the trendy functional ingredients that Brits want in their sports nutrition?

Vitamins is something we have found consumers want – snacking is a convenient way of obtaining the required vitamins for a healthy lifestyle is vital and can help with immunity.

Our latest product range launched last autumn contains exactly this. The new and improved recipe has a variety of important vitamins included to help consumers reach the vitamin RDAs (33% RI of three essential vitamins – vitamin B12, vitamin C and vitamin D3), along with being high in fibre and gluten free.

What are the big ‘no no’s’ among today’s snackers?

Anything unnatural. There’s a big focus on ingredients in the present time, and the more healthy, natural and un-interfered with ingredients make the product stand out. A lot of sports nutrition products on the market are full of bulking agents, alcohol sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Our protein balls are 100% natural and we pride ourselves with healthy, untouched ingredients with a simple ingredient deck to read and understand. Lots of brands mascarade with ‘zero’ or ‘no sugar’ and then add sweeteners and artificial ingredients to make the product sweet, which actually leaves a terrible taste.

All sugars are not equal and there is no problem using a dried fruit base to sweeten the product while keeping it clean.

Sports nutrition has traditionally comprised the like of gels, powders and shakes. Will that continue to be the case?

There’s a shift towards convenience foods – the RTE products that can easily be consumed anywhere or anytime are stealing the spotlight.

We have created our protein balls and breakfast range to suit people in every situation. Not only are they delicious and nutritious but very convenient. Each pack contains six bite-sized balls packed with vitamins, fruits and nuts.

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