Will Millennial Lifestylists Turn Sports Nutrition Vegan?

Will Millennial Lifestylists Turn Sports Nutrition Vegan?

With millennials starting to come of age and embracing ‘fitness as life’, their desire for wellness and ethical living could drive the development and sales of functional vegan foods and protein products. Figures recently published in the Independent suggest that around 14% of people in the UK define themselves as vegan or vegetarian. But marketers take note – the figure among millennials, is more like 25% and growing! What we’re witnessing, is a holistic development across the food industry when it comes to vegan food – and this includes the sports and lifestyle nutrition sectors which are increasingly becoming ‘flexitarian’.

Sports Nutrition – The Next Generation Could be Vegan

Sports nutrition itself is entering the second or third wave of its mainstream evolution. Indeed, at the dawn of  the new millennium, students starting university were the first generation to widely start downing whey protein shakes, as well as happy hour shots! The impact is evident in today’s SN industry – graduates from Sheffield Hallam’s sports science labs in the early 2000’s, includes former Men’s Health cover model and personal trainer Olly Foster, UFIT co-founder Terry Adams,  fitness writer Ed Vizard and Neil Foster from Nuritas – a company using artificial intelligence and genomics to develop natural Bioactive Peptides with health benefits. However, while the first wave of mainstream sports nutrition may have been all about whey – millennials could make it all about vegan nutrients such as pea protein and even the emerging trend for canabanoid-infused sports drinks. One driving force in the millennial market is social media – with body image, health and ethical awareness all combining to create a new breed of lifestyle consumer. The Huffington Post recently posted a quote from Veganuary, which highlighted the impact of Netflix documentaries such as ‘Cowspiracy’, ‘What The Health’ and films like ‘Okja’ on millennials and indeed society as a whole.

Flexitarian stats that marketers need to know:

  • Estimated 50% of UK adults now display some vegan buying behaviour
  • Vegan Society reported a 185% increase in number of vegan products launched in UK between 2012 and 2016
  • Research suggests 167,000 UK people committed to not eating animal products during January 2018, compared to 60,000 in 2017
  • Flexitarianism is growing – one in three actively cutting meat and having meat-free days
  • 500,000 UK consumers estimated to be vegan
  • Kantar Worldpanel suggest during January 2018 29% of evening meals were meat and fish free
  • Sales of meat-free ready meals increased by 15% in January 2018 compared to 2017.

Supermarkets including Asda and Tesco have launched new vegan meal ranges for 2018. Tesco’s marketing strategy has seen them partner with US chef Derek Samo, to launch a ‘Wicked Kitchen’ range that features 20 products, including sourdough pizzas, cauliflower and teriyaki noodles and mushroom bolognese. The company’s sales of vegetarian meals are reported to have increased by 25% in the last year alone. But we’re also seeing more sports and lifestyle nutrition brands targeting the growth in veganism and ‘millennial lifestylists’. Scitec Nutrition is a great example, having recently been crowned European Brand of the Year 2017, thanks to the development of innovative products – including a Green Series range and new 100% Plant Protein powder with pea isolate. Natural Nutrients is another to see the trend – their Faba Bean Protein Popcorn is already proving successful. While classic sports nutrition has a bright future with vegan protein – functional snacks such as protein popcorn, energy bars and deserts could see unrivalled growth.

Vegan Influencers – Key to Brand Penetration

While the millennial market for vegan nutrition already looks receptive – using authentic influencers to promote the benefits of Vegan nutrition could be crucial when it comes to marketing success, particularly in resistant but potentially valuable consumer groups. Venus Williams and Lewis Hamilton are two notable athletes with a huge following and strictly vegan fridges. Or how about young Brit, Lawrence Okolie? The 6’5 inch British boxer recently won a bout against fellow Brit, Isaac Chamberlain (ironically dubbed ‘British beef’ on social media) fuelled by a vegetarian diet – and there’s now talk of the ex-McDonalds’ worker launching his own vegan burger range. When it comes to a resistant but potentially very profitable consumer niche, the established sports nutrition consumer market, which has grown-up believing milk proteins like whey and casein have the edge when it comes to developing the perfect body, looks a challenge for marketers. However, the use of influencers, sustained product development and changing social perceptions of veganism, all look positives.

Marketing Vegan Nutrition to Meat Eaters

The much anticipated Beyond Meat burger is set to transform the concept of food when it launches in the UK. Marketed as The Future of Protein™, Beyond Meat is interesting because it’s targeted fundamentally at ‘meat eaters’. Indeed, there are millions of people who would love to be more ethically responsible and ‘go vegan’ – but they struggle to resist the urge to eat meat! Creating vegan products that taste fantastic, in both the groceries and sports nutrition sectors, is key to gaining market traction.

Will millennial lifestylists turn us all into vegans? The answer is probably not. But what looks certain is the growth of veganism and particularly the concept of flexitarianism across grocery, sports nutrition and lifestyle sectors.