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Do the Olympic Games Generate a Larger Demand for Sports Nutrition?

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Sports nutrition has seen a meteoric rise in the past five years by jumping 56% in global retail value from 2010 to 2015, reaching about US$10.6 billion. Yet, it accounted only for 5% of total sales of consumer health in 2015. The market drivers behind this remarkable growth are pretty much localized to the dominance of the United States (US) market, which accounted for 64% of global sales and shaped by strong consumer interest in sports and fitness. The other big markets, Australia, United Kingdom (UK), Brazil, and Canada generated a combined 17% of sales in the same year.

The Olympic Games have been studied as a possible source of inspiration for millions of people to join sports or fitness-related activities. The UK government commissioned TNS to publish “Inspiring a generation: A Taking Part report on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games” finding that about 8% of participants already engaged in sports were more motivated to continue doing so. The overall impact was even higher for the participants living in London, the host city of the games. Alternatively, an assessment(1) linking public physical activities and level of physical activities in low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro, a host city of the 2016 Olympic Games revealed that the preparation period ahead of the Olympic Games is not a big influencer in engaging people to become more physically active. Rather it is the overall environment and other factors such as safety, accessibility, motivation and community involvement that could exert greater influence on public health policies related to the improvement of fitness in the population. In terms of the Winter Olympics, the Canadian Sociological Association published the paper “Exploring an Olympic ‘Legacy’: Sport Participation in Canada before and after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics”(2) that showed an extremely short-lived momentum in motivating Canadians to engage more in winter sports.

Olympic Games as driver of retail value of sports nutrition across years

Euromonitor International looked at the retail value sales of sports nutrition during the period of 2003-2015 to find out if there is a relationship between Summer Olympic years against a rising or declining demand for sports nutrition products. The rationale behind this simple analysis was to help identify if consumer motivation related to sports and fitness during and after an Olympic year influences purchasing patterns of sports nutrition products.

Chart - World Sports Nutrition, Retail Value 2004-2016. Projections CH2016 vs CH2017 Editions

CH2016-17 Sports Nutrition Olympics

Note: Figures in constant terms. Slight market size and % growth y-on-y differences due to change in base year for fixed exchange rate (US$) between CH2016 edition and upcoming CH2017 edition

Global figures reveal an apparent positive impact on demand as related to the summer Olympics of 2008 (China) and 2012 (London) and shown by jumps in retail value of 7% and 11% for the following years 2009 and 2013, respectively. Moreover, data from the host countries China and the UK also show an increase in sales as shown in the charts below. While in China the growth seems particularly robust at 17% from 2008 to 2009, the growth in the UK did not spike as much in the historical period. Yet, these findings still do not show a strong indication to help determine a specific pattern on demand.

Chart - China Sports Nutrition, Retail Value 2007-2016

CH2016 - Sports Nutrition China Olympics

Note: Figures in constant terms/fixed exchange US$ 2015

CH2016 - Sports Nutrition UK Olympics

Note: Figures in constant terms/fixed exchange US$ 2015

The lack of a clear pattern on demand may be due to the safety certification of sports nutrition brands by governing bodies of sports and to the regulatory environment preventing adverts and/or sponsorships of sports nutrition products related to the Olympic Games. For the 2012 games, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) partnered with UK Sports to tailor supplements for elite athletes. In this initiative, GSK promoted its sports nutrition line, Maxinutrition, through the sponsorship of leading UK athletes participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games. In 2016 supplement producer Thorne Research became an official partner of several US National Governing Bodies ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Alternatively, powerhouse Gatorade (PepsiCo) launched a campaign for the Olympic Games highlighting top athletes. For example, the company produced a 7-minute animated video titled “The Boy Who Learned to Fly” showing a young Usain Bolt getting the inspiration to become a gold sprinter superstar. The video aims to inspire children and young people to get involved in sports and pursue their dreams.

Stringent anti-doping regulation of sports nutrition is expected to remain as a significant challenge in the sponsorship and promotion of sports nutrition and dietary supplements related to the Olympic Games. Firms selling products recognized by Olympic governing bodies of sports are slowly opening doors and building market opportunities for higher quality and safer products that even some of the top elite athletes in the world can trust. Euromonitor International will revisit data figures for 2016 and 2017 next year to find out if a more solid pattern emerges in the consumption of sports nutrition demand in relation to the Olympic Games.


(1) deSousa-Mast FR, et al. Does being an Olympic city help improve recreational resources? Examining the quality of physical activity resources in a low-income neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. International Journal of Public Health, 11 May 2016.

(2) Perks T. Exploring an Olympic "Legacy": Sport Participation in Canada before and after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Canadian Review of Sociology. 2015 November; 52(4):462-74

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