According to Gallup’s December 2013 “Study of Nutrient Knowledge and Consumption,” 62% of adults are aware of amino acids, on par with potassium, zinc and garlic and only three percentage points behind antioxidants. One in 10 consumers (9%) made a strong effort to consume more amino acids in 2013; 4% said their doctor recommended an amino acid supplement—about the same percent said their doctor recommended CoQ10.
Amino acids are most associated with the sports nutrition/weight loss sector, which posted sales of $30.7 billion in 2013, according to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).
Gallup reported that 27% of current sports nutrition users believe amino acids help sports performance or exercise endurance, compared to 19% of the general population, which is on par with those who think iron or whey protein can improve performance.
However, what has been overlooked for some time is that the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board published recommended levels for infants, children and adults for nine indispensable amino acids in its “2002 Dietary Reference Intakes for Macronutrients” report: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, sulfur-containing amino acids, aromatic amino acids, threonine, tryptophan and valine. IOM published this information again in 2006 in the “Dietary Reference Intake: Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements.”
Some amino acids are quietly infiltrating key nutraceutical categories as common ingredients. For example, globally, taurine has been a powerful ingredient for energy beverages. L-arginine is frequently included in supplements designed to support sexual performance.
Two of the top 10 best-selling sleep aids in 2013—Nature-Made Sleep and Alteril—contain L-theanine and L-tryptophan, respectively.
While we are not suggesting widely promoting individual amino acids, there are a number of legitimate physiological functions where the presence of specific amino acids is essential. For example, a threshold level of leucine is required to support muscle synthesis. Leucine is critical for achieving positive muscle balance and optimally supports muscle recovery after rigorous exercise. Leucine, in its role to trigger muscle synthesis, is also an essential nutrient for preventing and even reversing sarcopenia, a condition of aging that is best described as the loss of muscle mass and strength.
With 63% of the best-selling new supplements and OTCs carrying a “new, unique ingredient” or formula, and 55% an “expanded effectiveness” claim, according to IRI’s 2013 “New Product Pacesetters” report, touting the presence of an amino acid that helps to ensure the product’s benefit can be a strong market differentiator.
According to Sloan Trends’ TrendSense model, amino acids are flirting with reaching Mega Mass Market status, likely driven by the growing strength of the protein market, which is one of the largest Mega nutraceutical ingredient markets of all time.
Although Medical Counts are relatively flat, amino acids are supported by a number of ongoing medical research studies designed to identify new marketable findings and health linkages. The peak in marketability in the mid-2000s was a result of media and market attention to the IOM’s Macronutrient and Essential Guide reports. The marketability of individual amino acids has continued to make strong and steady gains.
- 59% of consumers are making an effort to get more protein; 87% of consumers believe that protein builds muscle (IFIC, 2014).
- Protein is on the IOM list of priority nutrients, with additional policy actions and media attention likely in 2014.
- Sales of sports nutrition powders reached $4.5 billion in 2013; projected to approach $6 billion by 2017 (NBJ).
- Sports nutrition supplement sales topped $4.5 billion in 2013; sports and energy drinks $17.2 billion (NBJ).
- Hard-core sports nutrition drinks are projected to top $500 million by 2015; double digit growth continues (NBJ).
- 1 in 5 Hispanic men aged 18-34 take a sports supplement (Gallup).
- 96 million U.S. adults are exercise walkers; 56 million exercise with equipment; 39 million do aerobics; 36 million work out at a club; and 66 million jog (National Sporting Goods Association, NSGA, 2013).
- Sports-active adults are most likely to live in high-income households > $100k (NSGA, 2013).
- 33% of teen boys, 27% of girls, worked out in 2013; double those participating in organized sports (HealthFocus, 2013).
- A higher percentage of adults exercise at a gym in India, China and Brazil, than in the U.S. (Euromonitor, 2014).
- Globally, sports nutrition continues to outpace the overall consumer health industry (Euromonitor, 2014).
- Of those using a sports supplement, 37% did so to build lean muscle mass; 37% to replace nutrients lost during exercise (Gallup).
- Sleep supplement sales are projected to reach $451 million in 2013 with continued double digit growth.
Functional Foods & Beverages
Forty-four percent of all adults use sports nutrition beverages and 32% sport bars (Gallup). While hard-core athletes/body builders will remain a lucrative segment, a new, less intense but much larger mainstream market has taken shape. Mainstream sports beverage/bar manufacturers may have an opportunity to trade up and create a new interim sports nutrition category, providing more serious products for today’s everyday exercisers and weekend warriors. Amino acids can be instrumental in differentiating the category from traditional sports drinks.
The new segment, which has driven sports nutrition sales growth over the past few years, is composed of recreational sports participants, casual athletes and gym exercisers; women who use these products to achieve their fitness/weight goals; Baby Boomers who want to age well; and moms looking for nutritional support for their children (NBJ).
Specific amino acids could be an exciting addition to liquid mainstream meal and weight loss supplements, especially those SKUs focused on the elderly (e.g., Ensure Muscle). Infant formula manufacturers may also elect to take advantage to feature uniquely functional amino acids (e.g., leucine).
Amino acids have long been a strong fit with hard-core supplement powders, sports beverages, bars and gels. Supplement marketers should also target products to the new emerging, more mainstream sports nutrition sector, including amino acids appropriate for the desired benefit.
Most important, supplement marketers should investigate the important catalytic role of individual amino acids in key supplement categories (e.g., sleep, energy and more).
Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan and Dr. Catherine Adams Hutt are president and chief scientific and regulatory officer, respectively, of Sloan Trends, Inc., Escondido, CA, a 20-year-old consulting firm that offers trend interpretation/predictions; identifies emerging high potential opportunities; and provides strategic counsel on issues and regulatory claims guidance for food/beverage, supplement and pharmaceutical marketers. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.sloantrend.com.