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Sports Nutrition trends in Asia – Are the lines blurring between sports and general wellness?

At a recent HI China 2018 show, insights in sports nutrition trends were broadcast to an audience of thousands during a presentation titled: “Active nutrition: sports meet healthy lifestyles”.

More and more manufacturers are making sports nutrition-related claims, such as their products being high in protein when launching a new food or beverage product. This is a result of the boundary between sports nutrition and normal food and beverages are blurring.

In Asia, the percentage of new active nutrition product launches have grown by 24% from 2013 to 2017. Examples include fruit snacks with high protein content, Nestle cereal products, sports nutrition bars, vegan protein products and juices infused with protein.

Plant Proteins

Plant proteins are shifting across multiple food product categories and sports nutrition categories. Globally, the percentage of new launches within the plant only protein range grew from 9.4% in 2013 to 15.8% in 2017. The percentage of dairy protein product launches in Asia stayed stable at around 70%.

In Asia, seaweed as a plant protein within sports nutrition for functional and health benefits have increased, alongside spirulina. Within the UK market, spirulina is well known for its powerful antioxidant properties, dominating the detoxification market.

Low Sugar

Sports nutrition trendsFrom low sugars to natural ingredients, the reasons for consuming sports nutrition products differs across Asia. Chinese consumers consider low sugar content the most attractive factor when purchasing a sports nutrition product. On the other hand, the Korean population claim that flavour and texture are the most important, which is closer to the general Asian trend.

To cater to consumer’s health demands, manufacturers are now launching more products with “low” claims in general, including low fat, low carbohydrate and low calorie.

In the case of low-fat sports nutrition trends, the proportion of new launches grew from 3.9% to 12.4% between 2013 and 2017 in Asia. In addition, there are also more “better for you” claims in sports nutrition products, with these growing from 52% in 2012 to 93% in 2017.

Organic products are the fastest growing claim across sports nutrition products, including whey protein powder and sports drinks, registering a CAGR growth of 41.5% from 2013 to 2017.


In China, e-commerce is the main sales channel. It accounted for 70% of sports nutrition product sales in China, according to Oliver Lu, general manager at the Nutrition Depot China, at an International Sports Nutrition Industry Insights Seminar.

He described China as a “unique market” that dwarfs its Asian neighbours in terms of advancements within e-commerce. In comparison, retail stores are still the main sales channel within Thailand, Vietnam and Australia.

However, not just any overseas brands can have the capability to achieve cross-border e-commerce success as seen in China. To do so, a brand must have a level of recognition, as the Chinese spend based on reputation and quality.