Sport for all: The new sports nutrition formulation challenges
World of experts

Initially oriented towards niche consumers such as bodybuilders and athletes, the sports nutrition market has gradually opened up to more mainstream sportsmen and women. Driven by a heightened collective awareness of health issues and the health benefits of sport in particular, it now appeals to both established  segments as well as a diverse range of individuals looking to integrate sports activities into a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.

These developments represent a real challenge for dairy companies. What are the challenges for sports nutrition formulations? Laïta Nutrition – the nutrition division of the Laïta dairy cooperative – is positioning itself in this promising market and offering its know-how to support brands and manufacturers.

The main sports nutrition formulation challenges

Challenges driven by major consumer trends

If there is one sector that is constantly evolving, it is the sports nutrition sector.

Major trends are developing simultaneously, some of them accelerated by the Covid pandemic, and shaping innovations in this market.

  • As we have seen, sport is becoming increasingly mainstream: consumers are looking for a more holistic approach to sports nutrition. This means nurturing health and well-being through regular physical activity and improved diet.
  • On the other hand, the trend towards lifestyle-oriented solutions is driving new dynamics such as the search for practicality and efficacy.
  • Finally, we find an increasingly demanding consumer, looking for  authentic, natural products. From these trends, we can understand the surge in demand in the plant-based protein market, which represents approximately 10 billion euros worldwide in 2021. The FAO estimates that the global demand for proteins will increase by 40% by 2030. In this period of heightened awareness about plant-based alternatives, the vegan drinks market is more promising than ever.

What are the challenges in this emerging context?

  • The first is to guarantee a nutritional profile adapted to all athletes. We are thinking in particular about neo-consumers who are vegetarian, vegan or individuals simply looking to establish a more plant-based diet. Unfortunately, they are still poorly catered for by the sports nutrition offer. Indeed, the market is currently mainly driven by animal proteins. Consumer demand for these alternative proteins is driving the emergence of a more diversified range of plant proteins. Dairy companies must reinvent themselves to offer new solutions to their customers.
  • Secondly, lifestyle shifts are driving the need to offer different products to consumers. Working on nomad, ready-to-use formats is an innovation path for brands. In this sense, the liquid format remains the most suitable because it hydrates as well as nourishes!
  • Finally: taste remains a very important lever. The sports nutrition world is mainly dominated by three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Consumers are looking for diversification.

To sum up, the challenge is to succeed in combining organoleptic qualities (taste, texture, smell, etc.), health benefits and product stability.

Specific formulation challenges for plant-based products

In the strong development area that is plant-based sports nutrition, a number of challenges are emerging. Two solutions are possible:

  • Substitute animal proteins with plant proteins having similar physicochemical and organoleptic properties;
  • Recreate animal proteins using new technological processes (e.g., plant whey metabolized by fermentation using GMO microflora).

The use of plant proteins as a substitute presents some constraints:

  • Organoleptic: vegetable proteins often have a bitter aftertaste
  • Limited sourcing: there are currently few authorized plant proteins for the development of plant-based alternatives. Moreover, they are sometimes highly sensitive to the technological processes usually applied to animal proteins (UHT technology).

Balanced and effective sports nutrition formulas therefore pose many challenges but also exciting development opportunities. To raise awareness about their benefits, Laïta Nutrition is deeply invested in this sector where we have a strong and solid expertise.

The challenge behind our value proposition is to retain current bodybuilding and/or CrossFit consumers and reach a wider customer base through a lifestyle approach.

Laïta Nutrition meets the sports nutrition formulation challenges

Our expertise

1) An expertise in complex nutritional formulation

With more than 30 years of experience in the development and industrialization of complex nutritional products, we have our own unique development methodology, tailored to the client.

We are very active in the study of new ingredients, we have a strong capacity to adapt ourselves to all types of ingredients and an expertise in the selection of raw materials.

2) A strong technological expertise

Our ambition is to make protein more accessible. To achieve this, we offer a unique manufacturing process that allows us to produce ingredients in powder or liquid form, and that are adapted to our customers’ needs.

Our industrial site in Ploudaniel is specialized in the aseptic filling of ready-to-drink solutions, while our sites in Créhen and Ancenis are focused on the formulation of canned powder products. We also have two applications laboratories and two pilot plants.

3) Specific processes control, traceability, and food safety

Regular risk identification and control as part of Laïta Nutrition’s activities enables us to meet international safety standards. We can thus guarantee the sanitary quality and safety of our products, as well as their traceability.

Thanks to our strong expertise in R&D and technology, we are developing new formulas and unique manufacturing processes that will shape the future of sports nutrition and vegetarian food.

Our latest launches in sports nutrition

It is in this specific segment of sports nutrition that Laïta Nutrition has concentrated its innovation efforts. Its expertise is illustrated by its three latest launches:

  1. A plant-based high-protein drink made of legumes: this product has been designed to be consumed before, during and after exercise. Packaged in a format already present on the market (300ml bottle), it can be preserved for a long time at room temperature thanks to the UHT sterilized bottle. Moreover, there are few vegetable alternatives today as rich in protein (20g/bottle, i.e. 6.7g/100ml), enriched with vitamins and minerals and, what’s more, sugar-free! About the taste, it’s a success with a chocolate hazelnut flavored drink that breaks from the established varieties on the market. Its texture is liquid and smooth.
  2. A pre-workout stimulating shot based on amino acids: we propose a 70ml shot made of water, amino acids, caffeine and taurine, for those who wish to develop their muscle mass and performance. Its highly original taste, salak, also adds a delicious twist to the product.
  3. A high-protein drink based on cow’s milk proteins: thanks to their functionalities, milk proteins bring flavor, fluidity, natural qualities, and performance to high-protein drinks. We propose a 200ml bottle rich in cow’s milk proteins (25g/portion, i.e. 12.5g/100ml), an ingredient of choice in sports nutrition.

In an attempt to satisfy everyone’s tastes and desires, we have adopted a tailor-made strategy and offer our formulas in a diverse range of flavors . Thanks to our work on the organoleptic qualities of our products, we make taste and pleasure a key factor in reaching the more lifestyle-oriented consumers, but they are not the only ones!

Surfing on new consumer trends, we offer more accessible, practical, and tasty nutritional products. Based on animal or vegetable proteins, the aim is to retain current consumers and reach a wider customer base: those looking for a healthier diet and sensitive to environmental issues, such as the vegan target. So yes, a dairy cooperative has its place in the plant-based beverage industry and is even driving new strategies for the nutritional and food transition!