20 Jun 2019

A spotlight on the Sports Nutrition manufacturing sector with Patrick Scahill, Business Development Manager, Brenntag Food and Nutrition

The Sports Nutrition market continues to be a growing sector for the UK, with a nowadays becoming well-informed consumer on the used ingredients and new innovations on raw material, getting new product types for a common balanced diet as an additional product group. We sat down with Brenntag's resident Sports Nutrition expert, Patrick Scahill, to find out their thoughts on the current status of the market and what the future may hold. Patrick started out his career as a Personal Trainer, with a degree in Food & Nutrition, before moving onto focusing on Beverage development and Ingredients Distribution.

What are the current trends in the Sports Nutrition sector?

The past few months I’ve noted an additional move in the direction of healthier nutrition next to the continued growth with products like protein shakes and meal replacement bars/powder blends, that have been the focus of Sports Nutrition manufacturing the last years. Formerly pure sports nutrition becomes nowadays broad-based and is included in the general nutrition diet. There has been a move in consumers to a more balanced ready meals and whole foods focus, which the manufacturers are reflecting. One area where we see particular growth in balanced meals and complete nutritional meals is in-house catering within gym facilities, allowing the consumer both to complete their work out and get a balanced/healthy and also the interest to extend the use of these products at home.

There is also a lot of attention around sugar reduction, improving fibre consumption and high protein snacks (see our recent conversation with Tayab Haq and Steve Timms on this topic) for the sector and so we continue to be active in supporting these developments with our in-house expertise.

What should the consumers be paying attention to right now?

Products like protein shakes and bars have gained rapid popularity over the past few years that new businesses are cropping up still releasing their own brand of these products as they look to capture some of the rapidly growing market share. The ongoing boom in that products on the market and the resulting higher demand on ingredients has meanwhile also affected the associated costs of producing the products. Consumers who are increasingly aware of their general needs, buying protein shakes, bars and other supporting sports products, should look at what their needs are, depends on the upcoming activities (sport session or balanced healthy diet) and consider if a balanced meal solution would be better for their daily necessities, both nutritionally and economically.

How can we support the consumers and help manufacturers meet their consumer demands?

I’d consider there to be 3 main areas of focus right now for manufacturers in this industry; protein supplementation in ready meals, fibre enrichment and sugar replacement, and by working towards these goals it helps the consumers meet their personal targets and balanced well-being.

Protein supplementation in ready meals is what I was discussing earlier, a nutritional balanced meal that includes enhanced amounts of protein to give a complete post workout solution in replacement of protein shakes and bars or as an add-on.

My colleagues recently spoke about the importance of fibre in a balanced diet and how consumers on average are getting far less fibre than is required, but fibre enrichment products are available to bridge that gap and new innovation are occurring regularly to meet the challenges. Fibre as ingredients partially takes also a part in the end-product on the requirements when it comes to a sugar reduction to keep the product as close as possible in taste and mouthfeel to the original.

Sugar reduction continues to be a focus for consumers and manufacturers alike, and we’re seeing more attention being given to high intensity sweeteners like Stevia, that are natural origin as a raw material, providing the required sweetness and are 0 calorie. Of course, there are challenges for manufacturers in upping protein content, fibre content and lowering sugar content, but that’s what we’re here for to introduce the exciting new products in these areas and help formulate them in.

And what about challenges, what challenges is the sector currently facing?

I see the demand for vegan and vegetarian dietary requirements continue to grow in the market, and particularly within veganism I see there are lacking sources of high bio-available protein. Whey protein, a derivative of milk, continues to top the list of bio-available protein and alongside being a good source for increasing protein levels (and also thereof Amino Acids), has other positives around taste and solubility which makes it a good ingredient to manufacture with, however note suitable for the vegan market.

Instead, products that support the vegan consumer are vegetable proteins such as pea, rice and soy although these can be powdery, tough to work with and even impart undesirable flavours. Much more work is required before protein can cater for all diets equally, but with the great innovations that take place both in food ingredients and the Sport Nutrition market, it won’t be long till the producer of new ingredients overcomes these challenges. Also, the combination/blending of those types of ingredients/raw materials will be one off the step for tastefully adapt the products to their already available positive nutritional value.

How do you see the Sports Nutrition market evolving in the future?

I touched on this a little already, but high protein vegan products that taste and feel as good as the conventional products that contain dairy is ongoing a step away. I’m working with several of our customers on new product developments already and we’ll continue to make further positive steps on this product range.

And what is currently getting you excited about working in the industry?

Consumers continue to expand their knowledge, and an informed consumer is great to work for, as they understand the challenges, we want to overcome and thus the manufacturers work towards improvements in those areas.

Consumers are much more proactive in using digital resources to enable them to make informed and smart choices when it comes to supplementation like bars/shakes vs. whole fortified and well-balanced nutritional meals. This knowledge has come around as part of a growing market, but also advances in technology and the availability of informational resources. It really helps to keep the industry growing and innovating.

What are you currently working on in the development kitchens?

Products like protein snacks and shakes are always going to have a place in the market due to consumer demand, therefore we’re working on the next generation of these products. Protein Balls are high in protein and fibre, made using a mix of oats and protein mix and then bonded together and something we’re currently working on in the kitchens to improve both texture and taste. The small snacks will give the consumer a boost in both protein and fibre but also need to taste right.

Our conversation with Patrick gives some insight into current trends in the market and areas of development for our customers. Patrick, with his knowledge of nutrition and new product development in this sector, continues to work on moving the industry forward with better products for the consumer and innovative product solutions for the manufacturer.

This article was provided by Brenntag Food and Nutrition