Globally, sports nutrition is the fastest growing consumer health category since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with double-digit growth for three consecutive years to 2023 (at USD fixed current rate). Retail sales benefited from increased consumer interest in health and fitness, as well as unit price hikes owing to high inflation and a surge in raw material price in some markets. Regionally, global sports nutrition sales are driven by North America.
Western Europe is expected to witness the highest CAGR growth over 2023-2028 with a globally-leading 60% e-commerce penetration in sports nutrition retail sales
Source: Euromonitor International
The highest e-commerce penetration in consumer health
E-commerce sales of sports nutrition products remain high compared to other consumer health categories such as OTC drugs and vitamins and dietary supplements. Online sales were boosted during the pandemic-led lockdown, and over 35% of global sports nutrition sales are now generated through online retailers, up by 10 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels.
One of the key reasons for e-commerce’s dominance in Western Europe is that brands in markets like the UK and Germany are heavily focused on online sales, with some being pure-play online retailers. These include The Hut Group’s MyProtein brand which is ranked the number one sports nutrition brand across the region, and the Mars-owned foodspring, one of the top five sports nutrition companies in Italy.
With growing consumer demand, existing companies are investing to expand their product offerings online. For instance, UK-based KBF Enterprises that owns sports nutrition brands such as Sports Fuel and Warrior Supplements secured GBP600,000 in funding from NatWest to boost its e-commerce growth in 2021. In the same year, Sweden-based Barebells launched its D2C website to offer protein bars and shakes.
Digitalisation plays vital role in sports nutrition path to purchase
With growing digitalisation, including online videos and consultations, consumers increasingly educate themselves through information available online. This means brands must further focus on customer engagement through their websites and social media platforms to convert those clicks into solid leads.
According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey, fielded in January-February 2023 (n=21,221), 33% of respondents in Germany mentioned online browsing as a key source of information for sports nutrition, up from 29% in 2022. The response is particularly strong amongst Western European countries and exceeds the global average of 28%. Moreover, Germans gathering knowledge online appears higher for sports nutrition products than for other consumer health categories such as vitamins.
Leading brands are already working on online content strategy as ways to reach their customers. For instance, MyProtein provides The Supplement magazine for free to its online customers. This is aimed at creating brand awareness and offering educational content to achieve high customer satisfaction.
High input cost disrupts retail channel distribution
Like many other consumer products categories, prices for sports nutrition products have been affected by several events, first from supply-chain disruptions post-pandemic and then from rising inflation in most Western European countries towards the end of 2022. While the industry battled against these developments, unit prices, especially for protein-based products, further swelled from significant hikes in the cost of whey protein. The average price of sweet whey protein rose by over 85% between 2020 and 2022 because of increased demand and logistical challenges, amongst others. The cascading effects of these events were seen in the 2023 price; however, pricing growth slowed compared with the previous year.
The industry saw immediate impact in retailing as consumers looked for affordable options. Western European private label sports nutrition sales (fixed USD rate) increased by 5% year-on-year in 2023, following double-digit growth in 2022.
To combat this, sports nutrition brands began adopting omnichannel strategies to diversify their channel mix
Source: Euromonitor International
In mid-2022, Applied Nutrition Ltd (a UK-based player offering both sports nutrition and weight management products) announced its first supermarket partnership with Asda. Online player foodspring has now started to distribute products in grocery retailers, specialised sports stores and pharmacies in Italy. In 2023, foodspring undertook a UK expansion by partnering with Holland & Barrett and Superdrug.
Compared with other top Western European countries in sports nutrition, UK consumers preferred discounted products instead of trading down in 2023. This is supported by increased promotional activities in the country, amidst the rising cost of living. According to Euromonitor’s E-commerce tool, Amazon is the UK’s leading online retailer, followed by MyProtein and Power Body. The promotional incidence rate for sports protein products on Amazon’s UK website rose in 2023. This helped Amazon to increase its share of the online UK sports nutrition market by about five percentage points between H1 2022 and H1 2023.
What lies ahead for sports nutrition distribution in Western Europe?
While e-commerce will remain the category’s key channel in Western Europe, Euromonitor expects further collaboration between e-commerce players and offline channels, especially in the UK and Italy. The percentage share of store-based sales will increase going forward as more private label brands enter the market, especially for categories such as protein/energy bars and protein RTDs. These products are becoming a popular on-the-go healthy snack option which are easy to find at nearby convenience or supermarket stores. In the top five sports nutrition markets – the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden and France – based on retail sales, the e-commerce share is expected to grow further between 2023 and 2028. Sweden will continue to lead with high e-commerce penetration, while online sales in the UK will slow a little with intense competition from offline channels.
To learn more about trends in sports nutrition, read our Sports Nutrition in the United Kingdom report.
Read our report Sports Nutrition in Western Europe for in-depth regional analysis and brand performance.