A healthy market – the rise and rise of sports nutrition


Adam Carey
Chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), United Kingdom


How has sports nutrition moved into the mainstream? After more than a decade of debate around how the industry should be regulated, last year the European Commission confirmed that there need be no specific legislation covering sports nutrition – and like any other food product, the sector will fall under general food law. This is a clear case of the law catching up with real life. Sports nutrition products are much more widespread today than they were 10 years ago, and are used by anyone from a casual jogger to a martial artist. The new legislative framework recognises this, acknowledging that sports nutrition is a safe, effective part of the food industry and liberalising laws covering it accordingly.

The story of sports nutrition is the story of a once niche sector of the food industry that has grown into something widely accepted as mainstream. Witness the sheer volume of products that now come fortified with protein – traditionally a food ingredient most commonly associated with sports supplements. Everything from cereal bars on the shelves next to cornflakes, to drinks on the shelves next to cola, to bread on the shelves next to bagels, can now be found with added protein. Indeed, sale of protein products alone have rocketed 20% in the last five years in the UK (1).

Witness too the types of consumers you see with sports nutrition products: everyday people, such as a mother dropping her child off at school or an office worker on their morning commute, looking to support a healthier, more active lifestyle. Sports nutrition ceased to be the preserve of elite athletes a long time ago, and its use is in no way limited to weight lifting or bodybuilding, as it was traditionally perceived. While it remains a cornerstone in the daily regimes of international sports stars, it is today used by millions of fitness and sport enthusiasts worldwide, and anyone from a marathon ...