Consumers increasingly use nutritional and performance drinks to replace meals

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Consumers increasingly use nutritional and performance drinks to replace meals

By Store Brands - 06/08/2016

Nutritional and performance drinks are increasingly replacing meals for U.S. consumers, reported global market research firm Mintel in its April "Nutritional and Performance Drinks US" report. Thirty-nine percent of consumers use nutritional and performance drinks as a replacement for breakfast and 58 percent of consumers use nutritional and performance drinks as a meal replacement. Additionally, 48 percent said they consume nutritional and performance drinks as part of a meal, up from just 20 percent who used nutritional drinks as a meal supplement in 2012.

Mintel also found that 69 percent of consumers agree that nutritional and performance drinks are a more effective source of nutrients, and 79 percent agree that they are more convenient than whole foods (e.g. fruits, nuts, grains). Moreover, 40 percent of consumers say they are drinking nutritional and performance beverages before, during or after exercising. These drinks are also carving out their share of the snacking category as 80 percent of consumers view these beverages as a great guilt-free snack.

Overall, 88 percent of consumers agree that nutritional and performance drinks help them maintain a healthy lifestyle, Mintel reported.

“The functional aspect of nutritional and performance drinks sets them apart from other drink categories at a time when consumers are looking for products that contribute to a healthy lifestyle,” said Beth Bloom, senior food and drink analyst, Mintel. “Nutritional and performance drinks are the apex of convenience for the modern American lifestyle and diet, as consumers are moving away from three meals per day and are snacking more often. These beverages deliver on convenience, affordability and efficacy, a trio of positive advantages that appeal to today’s on-the-go consumers that are simply too busy to eat a sit-down breakfast at home.”

Driven by their favorable functional attributes, nutritional drinks and performance drinks are gaining a larger market share of the overall category, which also includes sports drinks and weight loss drinks. From 2010-2015, performance drinks experienced 86 percent sales growth, while nutritional drinks saw 67 percent growth. The overall market grew 38 percent, reaching $13 billion in 2015, Mintel stated.

While sales of sports drinks grew 22 percent from 2010-2015, weight loss drinks experienced stunted growth (5 percent) caused by shifts in consumer dieting habits. What’s more, just 12 percent of consumers purchase weight loss drinks in comparison to the 32 percent of Americans who buy nutritional drinks, Mintel added.

“General diet trends are favoring functional attributes, and we’re seeing this play out in the success of the nutritional and performance drinks category," Bloom continued. "This is further highlighted by stalled growth of weight loss drinks, which are often promoted with claims such as low-calorie or reduced sugar. Weight-loss brands should move away from ‘less bad for you’ positioning and instead highlight the ‘better-for-you’ functional benefits of replacing meals with their products, as a large amount of weight-loss drink buyers use them as meal replacements."

Overall, when purchasing nutritional and performance drinks, the most important factors for US consumers are favorite flavor (41 percent), amount of protein (40 percent) and high fiber (33 percent).

“Products across beverage categories have caught on to the value of functional positioning, which challenges nutritional and performance drinks at their own game," Bloom stated. "In order to stay ahead of the competition, nutritional and performance drink brands should prioritize promoting and substantiating efficacy. Brands could also secure more natural positioning by featuring competing categories’ whole foods, such as 100 percent juice, coffee and tea, as ingredients."