Peak performance

peak performance

With 72% of adults reporting that they exercise on a weekly basis [Mintel], Kate Miller highlights why a broader definition of sports nutrition could be advantageous for indies who want to help customers reach peak performance

The sports section of health food shops, brimming with large, brightly coloured barrels and often frequented by customers with the body mass of a small rhino, can seem at odds with the rest of the store. However, a broadening mix of products is bringing new customers into the section, offering potential sales for retailers.

According to the latest Mintel report, the sports nutrition market is worth £91 million, driven largely by brands with a mainstream, active lifestyle focus providing accessible formats. While supermarkets lead the way with 73% of sales, specialist retailers are also doing well, with 27%. 

Sports for all
Matt Lovell, director of Perform and Function Ltd – and a sports nutritionist for national teams as well as the general public – says the principles which govern elite athletes also apply to non-professionals: “When we look at the rise in general fitness, gyms, cross fit and so on, people are training like athletes these days, plus working nine to five, so they need exactly the same type of support – albeit less calories – as the elites do. They need help with sleep, stress, muscle recuperation, hydration [and] meal planning.”

Solgar’s nutrition science and communications manager, David Crooks, points to the popularity of initiatives such as the free weekly nationwide Parkruns as indicative of this trend: “This year a record number of people applied for the London Marathon ballot, and the triathlon industry continues to grow. These endurance events can often require long periods of training in the run-up to race day; this is where nutrition and supplements may be supportive.”

Lovell says good sports nutrition can be used both as a preventative measure against injury or for performance. “If your body structures are strong and supple then you are less likely to be injured. This relies primarily on collagen quality, which is a mixture of having enough collagen, not too much sugar and eating enough vegetables. Collagen intake can help the body form new collagen structures. This will help heal an injury or lay down protective structures to prevent future injuries.”

Protein power
The big news in the sector at the moment is protein, boosted by its links to weight loss, muscle gain and satiety. However, many products are aimed at snacking and are packed with sugar – something at odds with Mintel’s findings that low sugar content is the most important factor for consumers choosing healthy foods. According to the report, 36% of adults said they thought sports nutrition products were too heavily focused on sweet flavours, rising to 53% among sports nutrition users.

Crooks says the increasing popularity of vegan diets is also driving growth of products such as plant-based protein powders. “However, recommendations are no longer just focused around protein. It’s important not to forget the basics: a good multivitamin and mineral (alongside a healthy diet) and other nutrients to support energy metabolism, immunity and general muscle function.”

When it comes to supplements, Lovell – who is the driving force behind the Aminoman sports nutrition brand – says he’s mindful of selling anything people don’t need. “I’ll always recommend alternative products or food solutions first. My ‘go to’ products are omega-3, vitamin D/K2 [and] a good multivitamin, eg not a supermarket one. Then for training, aminos, minerals, nootropics, (natural) creatine, beta-alanine and oxygen-enhancing herbs and fruit extracts.”

“Collagen intake can help the body form new collagen structures. This will help heal an injury or … prevent future injuries”

Crooks says that Solgar 7 is still a customer favourite. “Several of the ingredients are backed by human clinical trials and the convenience of a one-a-day product in a small capsule makes for easy compliance. Certain standalone ingredients such as magnesium citrate are also very popular. Magnesium contributes to normal muscle function, electrolyte balance, protein synthesis, energy-yielding metabolism and also a reduction in tiredness and fatigue, so it ticks a lot of boxes for those doing sport. Last but not least is our Whey-to-Go Protein Powder, a blend of whey protein isolate and concentrate providing 20g of protein combined with over a gram of l-glutamine alongside branched chain amino acids.  It’s available in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavour.”

Retail experience
Crooks says there’s no reason for retailers to be intimidated by sports nutrition: “Exercise puts a strain on the immune system; exercise is a form of stress, it can impact sleep and therefore recovery and it also affects joint and muscle health – all things that retailers are supporting their customers with already!”

He recommends assessing the local area for gyms, sports clubs [and] personal trainers to establish what type of products might be needed. Linking with these clubs, running promotions, offering discounts and talks by specialists could all lead to your shop becoming a destination for new customers: “Establishing a sports section in store is also a good idea. Create a range of products including supplements, protein powders and gels, and think about displaying with companion products such as blister plasters, compression socks or other products that athletes might be looking for.”


CherryActive & BeetActive 30ml sachets

Active Edge (Nutrition) Ltd
Tel: 08451 705705
E-mail:  [email protected]

Natural sports performance from Active Edge comes in the form of BeetActive and CherryActive, in ready measured convenient 30ml sachets.  Plant based with no added preservatives, sugars, colours or flavours. BeetActive (100% concentrated beetroot juice) helps boost endurance and CherryActive (100% concentrated Montmorency cherry juice) speeds up muscle recovery. These ultra convenient 30ml packs are ideal for the on-the-go customer and only need adding to water for a pre and post workout solution. Available in attractive counter display boxes (boxes of 24 sachets) 30ml sachets can be sold separately or as a box. Contact us for more details.


Helios Injury

Helios Homeopathy Ltd
Tel: 01892 537254
E-mail:  [email protected]

Three homeopathic remedies Arnica, Rhus tox and Ruta grav are combined to form Helios Injury. This award winning combination remedy has a long history of traditional use for the symptomatic relief of pain and inflammation associated with joint problems, strains, sprains, bruises and trauma. Attractively packaged Helios Injury comes in lactose free, sucrose pill form in our easy to use single dose dispenser and is a great addition to the sports bag or first aid cabinet at home. For details of all our combination remedies please contact us [email protected]


Link Nutrition Food Based Magnesium

Link Nutrition
Tel: 020 7881 0046
E-mail:  [email protected]

Make the most of your workouts by making recovery a priority. Link Nutrition’s Food BasedTM Magnesium supplement supports normal protein synthesis, so you can recover better from intense exercise. It also helps fight tiredness and fatigue, so you can get to your next workout quicker. Because it is Food BasedTM it is gentle on the stomach and readily absorbed. Food basedTM nutrients are vitamins and minerals just like those found in nature; complete with naturally occurring cofactors. This makes them safe, effective and readily absorbed by the body. 


Ancient Magnesium Cool Relief Lotion

Wholesale Health Ltd
Tel: 01606 889 905

Ancient Magnesium Cool Relief Lotion from Good Health Naturally delivers a soothing combination of ‘ultra-pure’ concentrated Zechstein magnesium chloride, ginger, menthol, and arnica oil, providing fast recovery from tiredness & fatigue, and muscle tension. A must for anyone’s exercise recovery regimen. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for sports nutrition as it plays a fundamental role in electrolyte balance and energy production, muscle contraction, skeletal strength, and may help sustain high oxygen consumption for improved sports performance. Ask about our sample sachets and range of free marketing material to attract and inform your customers.


Garden of Life Raw Protein & Greens

Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Each serving of Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein & Greens offers 20g of easily digested complete plant protein, 3.6 g of BCAAs per serving with 4 organic sprouted grains, seeds and legumes as well as organic pea protein grown on Garden of Life’s USA farm, 1.5 billion live bacteria, 13 digestive enzymes, and six nutrient- rich, organic greens and veggies: organic alfalfa grass juice which has 6 times the nutrient density of whole leaf grass plus organic spinach, organic kale, organic broccoli, organic carrot and organic beet. Garden of Life’s plant proteins are produced at low temperatures, preserving their complete amino acid integrity. 



Profusion Organic Protein Bread

Profusion Organic
Tel: 0208 547 2775
E-mail:  [email protected]

This German style rye bread is high in plant-based protein & fibre, low carb and wholegrain. It toasts up to perfection and is the perfect post workout snack –  top it with smashed avocado for a filling lunch that will keep you going all afternoon. Made from a nutty blend of rye and flax, this versatile bread is a great base for both sweet and savoury toppings. A cupboard staple for many, Profusion Protein Bread has just won a Great Taste Award! Judges described it as having a ‘sweet aroma’ and ‘a solid daily bread with the extra benefit of protein’.