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Catering to different fitness goals in Asia


By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO Asia Pacific

The market for sports nutrition products is growing strongly in the Asian region. In Asia Pacific, sports nutrition is expected to grow with a CAGR of 9.5% between 2018-2023 (1), driven by awareness of issues such as obesity and diabetes, as well as an increasing number of consumers taking up sporting activities.
In China, over the past five years the compound annual growth rate in the sports nutrition market reached up to 40%, a figure higher than that of the global and US market, and the overall size of China’s sports nutrition market reached 329 million US dollars.
With such growth in Asia, it is no surprise that the global market for sports drinks is predicted to reach USD 5.92 billion by 2021, a significant growth from 2016 when the market was worth USD 4.62 billion (2).
Consumers today are spoilt for choice, with a plethora of sports drinks claiming to increase energy levels and endurance, available at most stores and vending machines. Presently, most of these sports and fitness- related products on the market contain ‘fast carbohydrates’ such as maltodextrin, glucose syrup and sucrose, which releases glucose into the bloodstream quickly and generally suppress fat oxidation. While suitable for those in need of instant energy, high-glycaemic carbohydrates are not ideal for achieving balanced energy levels throughout the day.
There is, therefore, a market opportunity for products that contain slowly released carbohydrates that enhance fuel management and endurance and deliver glucose in a balanced and sustained way, such as BENEO’s Palatinose™ (generic name isomaltulose).
This slow release carbohydrate, which is derived from sugar beet, is unique because of its molecular structure. It consists of a glucose and fructose molecule – like sucrose. However, in contrast to sucrose the linkage of the molecules is much stronger, which means that the human body can still digest it fully, yet more slowly. As a result, the full carbohydrate energy (glucose) is provided in a more steady and sustained way. The blood glucose levels stay balanced without sudden ups and down and this also helps to burn fat more effectively. An increased fat burning rate means that the body burns fat for energy, thus ensuring that active consumers can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer.
Shifting the focus from carb utilisation to fat burning Looking at BENEO’s recent consumer research, fitness consumers can be divided into three main groups – “Athletes”, “Regular Actives” and Sportive Eaters”. Consumers from each group exercise for different purposes and at varying intensity levels and therefore react differently to nutrients consumed.
Despite the difference in physiological needs, however, slowly released carbohydrates play a monumental role across all three groups.
(1) Asia-Pacific Sports Nutrition Market, Mordor Intelligence
(2) Sports Drink Market By Type (Modern Grocery Retailers, Traditional Grocery Retailers), And By Region-Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, And Forecasts (2016-2021), Orbis Research
Consumers who compete and train regularly in competitions fall under the “Athletes” group. Efficient fuel management is vital for this performance-driven group as they try to gain an advantage over opponents by competing faster at longer durations. Palatinose™ helps to boost the endurance level of these athletes as it supplies steady and sustained energy and promotes fat oxidation.
The “Regular Actives” group includes consumers who exercise recreationally three times a week and consume sports products to support their active lifestyles. One in three consumers falls under this category globally, so it is an important demographic for food manufacturers. Some of the priorities for this group of consumers include maintaining a healthy body weight, improving body tone and preventing illnesses. Due to its ability to keep blood sugar levels and insulin balanced Palatinose™ can improve the fat metabolism of these consumers. As insulin is a storage hormone, fat storage will be minimised while fat fuel will be optimised. In the long term, these consumers will benefit from less fat accumulation.
The “Sportive Eaters” group is made up of consumers at the opposite end of the spectrum to athletes. This group strives for indulgence but with fitness characteristics, with their food and drink purchasing decisions mostly influenced by weight loss motivators. They seek energy to get them through the day
or to embrace a sportier lifestyle without the same level of activity as “Regular Actives”.
These consumers do not engage in much exercise but consume sports products to look and feel good. As such, Palatinose™ will be a good fit for this group of consumers due to its more balanced energy properties as compared to the high glycaemic carbohydrates.
The functional benefits of a product alone often aren’t enough for it to become a regular feature in consumers’ shopping baskets. Good taste and texture are also essential to attract consumers.
Carbohydrate ingredients need to be able to deliver in terms of technical, as well as nutritional and functional benefits. BENEO’s Palatinose™ has a natural, mild sugar-like taste and is ideal for use in almost all kinds of food and beverages, especially gels, bars and drinks. In recent recipe formulation trials at the BENEO-Technology Center, Palatinose™ was used to develop a reduced glycaemic response instant sports drink. The created powder is dissolvable in cold water, has excellent flowability and dispersibility properties and results in a final drink with a pleasant sweet taste.
Sports nutrition is extending beyond the scope of catering to elite athletes. There is a growing market of non-athlete consumers who have different fitness habits and goals to meet. With alternative sugars such as Palatinose™, manufacturers can now offer products that are more aligned with the fitness goals of the ”Regular Actives” who exercise around three times a week as well as “Sportive Eaters” who do not exercise as much but are looking to lose weight and stay healthy. The BENEO-Technology Center has developed a wide range of new product concepts including drinks, foods and gels to cater
to the needs of the increasing number of people in Asia who want to keep fit and stay healthy.