Health E-Insights: Are sports nutrition products booming?
Thompson: Sports nutrition and more broadly, performance nutrition, has been growing strongly for years on the back of ever rising interest in fitness, health, and wellness. Every year there are more people living increasingly active lifestyles combined with a rise in the education level around nutrition and an interest in specialty and personalized diets. Recent events surrounding COVID-19 will undoubtedly have impacts, but I believe the underlying trends toward enhanced fitness, health and performance nutrition will if anything, only continue to expand.
Health E-Insights: Are powders or drinks more popular?
Thompson: Drinks have really surged in popularity within sports nutrition, as have other on-the-go convenience offerings like bars and other ready-to-eats. Recent shutdowns have obviously suppressed Grab & Go and pre- and post-workout occasion-based RTDs, but in general the market trend has been toward convenience formats and markedly so in the pre-workout and energy categories. That said, powders, and in particular protein powders, are still extremely popular for their versatility, value, and shelf life, which is why you’re seeing people turn to powders during the pandemic.
Health E-Insights: Explain the purest and most perfect protein (P&PP) claim.
Thompson: We do not claim we are the purest and most perfect brand or product, but we do hold our quality and product specifications to high standards in order to deliver label claims like Zero Carb, Zero Lactose and Zero Fat. Emerging from the vision of Hal Katz over 20 years ago, the Isopure brand has long been known for the highest quality protein, without the fat, carbs, or fillers. We have taken that great legacy and continued to evolve the definition of purity beyond just macronutrient purity into ingredient purity. The brand is in a continuous pursuit of purity, performance, and simplicity.
Health E-Insights: Is P&PP your company’s competitive advantage?
Thompson: It is a critical component. Pure is in our name. Isopure’s reputation for superior macros and ease of digestibility is what attracts people to our products and the consistent experience and brand inspiration is what keeps them coming back. We apply a paradigm of purity, simplicity, and inspiration to everything we do. Those are our three guideposts. Our aspiration is to be an innovator of high-performance products with clean, simple, and natural ingredients. Our Infusions product launch is a great example of doing that.
Health E-Insights: What does quality mean to you and why is it critical to your business strategy?
Thompson: Quality is foundational. We have a quality culture that permeates literally all functions of our business from our raw material sourcing, to manufacturing, to marketing, to our customer and consumer service. There is a lot going on in the background that is unheralded, but I credit our high ratings, strong Net Promoter Scores, and highly engaged consumers to our uncompromising quality program. One incredible and unique advantage we have is that as part of the Glanbia family, we have the ability to maintain “Cow to Tub” control and our investment in people, quality, and facilities is second to none in the industry.
Health E-Insights: How has the sports fitness business changed since the company was started 20+ years ago?
Thompson: No doubt things have changed dramatically over the years. People used to talk about the wild west nature of the industry, but today it is a different scene. Consumers are more informed and doing more and different activities like functional fitness training and combat sports. There have been big advances in product quality, taste, and efficacy. We have seen new regulations, certification and quality standards instantiated industry wide. There has been a mainstreaming effect and subsequent channel shifts from Specialty to FDM and brick & mortar to online shopping. And of course, the role of new technology cannot be understated.
Health E-Insights: In what direction do you see the sports nutrition marketplace moving?
Thompson: Longer term, I see it moving towards personalization. There has been a lot of excitement and in some cases, overreaching hype with the advent of certain technologies regarding how close we are to meaningful supplement personalization. But I see it as a know-how and navigation problem more than ultimately a technology bottleneck, so I do feel meaningful personalization is coming. Slowly, awkwardly, even gimmicky at first, but it is coming.
Health E-Insights: What is the best book about nutrition you have ever read?
Thompson: The Lean Muscle Diet by Alan Aragon and Lou Schuler is a classic.
Sheldon Baker is a senior member of Baker Dillon Group LLC and has created numerous nutraceutical brand marketing communications and public relations campaigns for many well-known supplement and food industry companies. For Health E-Insights interview consideration or brand marketing consulting, contact him at SBaker@BakerDillon.com.