With the reopening of gyms and the recommencement of sporting activities, sales of protein bars and shakes are set to rise during the coming year. Donna Ahern reports.
Over the past few years, Ireland has become an increasingly health-focused country, characterised by more nutritious, fresh food diets and greater attention being given to regular exercise.
This has led to a marked increase in demand for high protein shakes and bars to keep those that live an active, social and full- on life pumped up and energised.
In order to cater for their busier and fast paced lifestyles, more and more grocery shoppers are looking for products to sustain them and keep them going as they transition from the workplace to the gym or a specific sporting activity.
According to the most recent Bord Bia report, titled Performance Nutrition, approximately one in three of the population are currently taking, or are considering taking, performance nutrition products.
The report indicated that spend on sport nutrition products is on the rise. When we look at established consumers (those who have been taking sports nutrition supplements for more than 12 months) the research showed that almost half (47%) of the respondents have increased the amount of money they are spending on sports nutrition products.
In fact, the average spend by consumers in Ireland is in the region of €52.86 per month.
Increased Health Focus
Thanks to an increased focus on health and fitness in Ireland, there has been a significant rise in the number of gyms in urban areas over the past decade. From a total of just 311 gyms in 2010, the figure stood at 831 in 2019, representing a 167% increase, according to the latest GeoView commercial property report from An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI).
During the lockdown, we saw the closure of gyms and matches being cancelled throughout the country. However, since the lifting of restrictions, the interest in going to gyms and becoming active is predicted to rise.
John Curran, nutritionist and founder of nutrition coaching service Base Nutrition, has seen a recent upsurge in queries from customers looking to change their diets so they can perform better with physical activity.
Speaking with Checkout he says, “Since the restrictions have lifted people are in a sense coming out of a hibernation period where many good habits have fallen away. As people now have access to gyms again and are also meeting more people in their daily routine, many people are motivated to make some positive changes around nutrition and exercise. Some people are focused on shedding some excess pounds from the pandemic period, and others are focused on how to get the best return for their time spent, as they get back into the gym.”
Avid gym aficionados and sports enthusiasts would know that when they are preparing for training, the consumption of protein is key for building muscle.
When it comes to preparing a protein packed meal, Curran suggests that consumers should time their training before a meal “so that they can have something like steak or chicken or fish as an additional protein source.”
He also suggests pairing that with some vegetables for nutrients and fibre and “a starchier carbohydrate like brown rice or potatoes to deliver some glycogen to the muscles along with the protein.”
Sports enthusiast Paul Galiceanu, who works as the assistant manager and a personal trainer in FLYEfit, Macken Street in Dublin, agrees.
He points out that there are many delicious meals that can be prepared before going to the gym that contain a lot of protein.
“You can't really run out of options,” he says. “When it comes to natural high protein foods, I would definitely have meat at the top, as it is very easy to find and you have plenty of varieties, such as chicken, beef, lamb etc. Seafood, eggs, milk and seeds would follow.
“For someone who is vegetarian or vegan, the best would be quinoa, broccoli, soy and various seeds. However, for them it would be a bit harder to get sufficient protein just from the non-animal sources. In this case, they would have to mix the various sources, so they don't get bored eating the same food every day.”
However, time strapped sports enthusiasts might have to supplement a meal with a protein bar or shake to nutritionally prepare them ahead of a workout. Products that have a notable appeal to busier consumers are undoubtably the hyper-portable protein packed bars and shakes that will keep them energised while they are on the go. “
Anyone who is very busy would need a quick snack that is high in protein, so the best option would be protein bars or protein shakes with milk,” says Galiceanu.
He suggests peanut butter as an alternative option.
“Depending on your gym goal, be careful with peanut butter as it is high in calories,” he adds.
Recent research conducted by NielsenIQ on the behalf of Checkout shows that sales of protein bars increased by 26% year on year.
The rise in the popularity of healthy-bar and snack ranges was also evident in the Checkout Top 100 Brands 2021, which is published in association with NielsenIQ. Ireland’s leading healthy-bar brand, Fulfil, delivered another strong performance, moving from number 45 in 2020 to number 44 in 2021.
First appearing in 2016, at number 87, the Special Dietary Products category rose up the rankings by no fewer than nine places in Checkout’s Top 100 Brands 2021, to number 41.
It was also good news when it came to category share for the top brands, as this rose from 70.4% in 2020 to 80.3% in 2021.
Fulfil made it three years in a row in the number-one position, Grenade dropped from second to third place, and Kinetica, which fell out of the top five in 2020, re-appeared in 2021, in second place.
Optimum Nutrition rose from fifth to fourth place, which means that 2020’s newcomer PhD Nutrition, and Nutramino, which ranked fourth in 2020, were no longer in the top five.
KIND made its debut in the top five, in the fifth-place position.
Aside from the nutritional value, as the trend towards healthy snacking continues to grow, shoppers are trading up to treat themselves with ‘better for you’ branded snacks.
Evidently grocery retailers have cottoned on to the increase in demand for grab-as-you-go healthy options as most snack displays at the till are lined with a selection of healthy-bar and snack range.
What advice would Galiceanu give to retailers who are interested in stocking items from this category in-store? “For all the retailers who are stocking protein snacks, have a lot of variations, either in snacks or flavours,” he says. “Also, don't forget the vegan version.”