TABS Analytics Blog

$2.6 Billion Sports Nutrition Market Dominated by Younger Buyers | TABS Analytics

The TABS Group has conducted a survey on consumer trends in vitamin and nutritional supplements annually for many years. For the first time, the study scope was expanded to include sports nutrition as an additional area of interest.

The study, fielded in early 2015, utilized responses from 1015 demographically and geographically dispersed consumers to measure both consumption and channel preferences (findings presented in the Vitamin and Sports Nutrition study webinar in May 2015.)

For purposes of the study, channels were divided into mass market and specialty outlets. Mass market includes food, drug, mass merchandisers, club and dollar stores. Specialty included nutritional specialty stores, natural food stores, online, catalog, multilevel marketing and other outlets.

Sports nutrition was defined as performance and protein powders, drinks and pills. Energy bars and shots were specifically excluded.

The goal of the study was to uncover how often consumers purchase various types of sports nutrition products and which outlets they use for their purchases.

Market Size

The sports nutrition market is estimated by TABS Group to be about $2.6 Billion. Market penetration is relatively high, since 37 percent of adults age 18 and older purchase products in the category.

Popular Product Forms

Ready to drink shakes are the most popular product category in the segment, with 28 percent of respondents saying the buy the product. About 35 percent of the respondents identified themselves as heavy users, which mean they purchased the product at least 6 times. Very heavy users, those who purchased 10 or more times, equaled 15 percent.

Protein powders were the next most popular product, with 24 percent buying powders based on whey or casein and 16 percent buying soy or other plant-based protein powders. Soy powders were less popular with heavy users at 16 percent than were other other protein powders at 18 percent. The same pattern held true for very heavy users, at 7 percent versus 8 percent respectively.

Performance enhancing pills, powders or drinks were purchased by 17 percent of buyers. Similar to the ready to drink shake category, 35 percent fell in to the heavy user category, although only 11 percent were very heavy users.

Light users, those who purchase only 1 or 2 times, were most likely to buy protein powders, at 46 percent each for soy and other. Performance pills and powders were purchased by 39 percent of light users, while ready to drink shakes had a 36 percent penetration.

The next most popular category among light users was performance pills and powders at 39 percent. The least popular item among light users was ready to drink sports shakes at 36 percent.

Channel Preferences

Mass market is the channel of preference for sports nutrition category, with 50 percent of sales. Many consumers purchase in multiple channels, however. In terms of spend, 40 percent of dollar spend is from buyers who only buy at mass market outlets, while 27 percent is from buyers who only buy at specialty outlets. The remaining 33 percent buy from both.

Fifty-nine percent of buyers only purchase from mass market outlets, and 22 percent only buy from specialty retailers. The remaining 19 percent purchase from both. It’s interesting to note that the buyers who buy only from specialty outlets is significantly higher than it is in the vitamin and nutritional supplement category. 

Age and Consumption

There is a strong correlation between age and usage of sports nutrition products. Light users gradually drop from a consistent 22 percent in the years leading up to age 40, then a gradual drop off to less than 10 percent around age 60. By age 70, consumption is non-existent.

Heavy users peak between ages 25 and 29 at 40 percent, 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. 

Gender and Consumption

Men are heavier users of sports nutrition products than women at 15 percent versus 10 percent respectively. Men claim to be light users 27 percent of the time while women claim 22 percent. However, 69 percent of women fall into the non-buyer category compared to 58 percent of men. Overall, gender is a significant factor in the sports nutrition category, although perhaps not as significant as many people believe.

Ethnic Considerations

Hispanics report heavy sports nutrition usage 39 percent of the time, and light usage 35 percent of the time. Only 25 percent of Hispanics report no use of the category at all, while 50 percent of non-Hispanics are non-users. Only 19 percent of non-Hispanics are heavy users and 31 percent report light usage.


vitamin & sports nutrition report