Are you still trying to catch your breath from 2018? Don’t worry, you are probably not alone…
Looking back at 2018, I felt as if this year changed faster and more aggressively than any other time in recent history. The nutritional supplement industry had a metaphoric year that gave us many lessons to learn from and optimistically apply to the future. It was the type of year that makes my job as a management consultant fun.
My prediction for 2019…
It’s going to make 2018 look like a deaf sloth compared to its elevated noise and aggressive speed of change!
Though I am sure you guys would love to read a 1000 word article or watch a 15 minute YouTube video on my predictions for the top supplement industry trends for 2019, I decided instead to leverage my network for their expert opinions.
I tried my best to provide a ton of variety in the expert opinions that I asked to provide quotes for this article. In total, I received 16 quotes from VP-level or higher industry experts that currently work at the;
- Brand-Level — there is a also a good range of small and medium brands that have a wide range of physical and digital retail sales mix
- Retail-Level — there is both a local and national retailer
- Distribution & International-Level
While reading these diverse expert opinions, you will see a few trends that are woven into all corners of the supplement industry. These are topics that I talk a ton about and ones that will continue to power the growing but increasingly competitive industry. I hope everyone gets some value out of this article and I would like to publicly thank everyone that helped me put this together. Finally, I have hyperlinked all names with their LinkedIn profiles and companies with their websites for ease of contact from interested parties.
Seems to me the hottest trend is also the most competitive portion of the market…Carbonated energy drinks. I think the other big trend is towards functional foods and unique delivery systems for nutritional supplements. Innovation of new ingredients that change the marketplace are less and less likely as the FDA seems to be more actively pursuing non-permissible dietary ingredients. I think that will lead to innovation in delivery and convenience. — Aaron Singerman (CEO — Redcon1)
What I expect — or perhaps more accurately, hope for — in 2019 is better and more tightly integrated brand concepts. Despite the profusion of companies in the dietary supplement niche, the number of coherent brands is considerably lower. Often, there seems to be little if any correspondence between identity, image, positioning, and portfolio. Over the last 12 to 18 months, though, several integrated brand concepts have emerged and perfectly combined these elements. — Kenton Engel (CMO — Core Nutritionals, ‘Merica Labz and ‘Merica Energy)
Meaningful branding will emerge as the dominant axis and stay that way. Consumers and brands need to connect in a meaningful and timely way like never before. Without a social purpose, brands do not stand a chance and we only get one shot to get the social purpose right for our customers. The strategics will continue to find this difficult to pivot towards the customers in a timely way and acquisitions will continue in the early and mid-growth stages. The economy, in my opinion, still has a large question mark over it, but what we know is that health and wellness have rooted and irreversible trend that will continue to grow despite any broader economic slowdowns. — Jude Colangelo (Founder and CEO — Eat The Bear)
I think 2018 saw a lot of disruption (beverage, licensing, and CBD) and it will be interesting to see how these advances within the industry continue to play out. At a high level, I expect 2019 will be all about convenience. People want creatively convenient forms to purchase, interact with and consume their favorite products and brands. Most in the industry will chase the Quests/Bangs in the Amazon jungle because that’s how the sports nutrition world has always worked but I think the real key to creating a long term, sustainable product/brand/business is to pave a different path forward. — Daniel Lourenco (CEO — GHOST)
This will be the year that quality-driven brands become more prominent in the Direct to Consumer category. Once only occupied by cheap “get shredded fast” brands, I see the dimly lit candle of Specialty Retail (especially Brick & Mortar) dying out & quality-driven brands focusing heavily on digital marketing and a direct customer experience. — Greg Helton (CMO — MuscleSport)
I expect to see a continuation of the plant-based and all-natural supplementation trends in addition to the broad expansion of functional foods. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the larger CPG companies start to introduce or expand their functional food offerings and even dabble in niche sports nutrition products. As grocery stores continue to expand their sport nutrition reach the dominant CPG brands will take notice and naturally want a piece. — Brendan Ahern (CEO — Ronnie Coleman Signature Series)
The biggest movement does seem to be towards on-the-go items, whether it’s bars, jerky, RTDs, anything that is fast, convenient and perceived to be a healthy choice; acquisitions by traditional CPG companies seem to validate this. For innovation, how people use supplements will be the true innovation, be it delivery systems, formats, etc. If we can continue to make it easier for people to supplement, we will continue to get more broad adoption of sports nutrition. — Eric Hart (VP — Redcon1)
The 2019 hottest trend in sports nutrition will be a move toward the basics and functional foods. We have exhausted every category and with the looming crackdown on SARMS and hormones by the government, that shady side will leave stores scrambling to make up revenue. The smart ones will offer functional foods that keep customers coming back. We will see more energy drinks, bars and convenience foods. — Marc Lobliner (CEO — MTS Nutrition)
I see a huge shift away from influencer marketing. Consumers are tired of getting beat over the head with advertising from anyone and everyone with a couple thousand followers — Robert Oliver (CEO — The Genius Brand)
One giant shift drives the two biggest trends: Today’s sports nutrition consumer is better educated and comes with higher expectations than ever before; as more people truly become the CEO of their personal performance, brands must prove their promise with demonstrable results. Hype is dead. Two sports nutrition trends: First, the coming crossover of genetics and genomes and the promise of “personal & customized” supplements to help drive even greater results. Second is the rapid growth of DTC brands & personal customer relationships that alters how some innovative brands come to exist and limit the need for a retail presence. — Vito Sanzone (CEO — Complete Nutrition)
From the retail-side of the industry, the brands that band together that have formulated both incredible structure and product for sustained success will thrive in retail stores that DO IT RIGHT. Those brands will of course thrive in the ever-evolving internet market as well, why? They are built for it and implement small changes every day to get better. We have both retail stores and a growing website in an industry that’s seeing doom in many aspects because of heavy D2C and Amazon simplicity. Enter a new trend and idea that’s in its infancy that will shape what I speak of called “The Band Of Brands” — Steve Calabrese (CEO — Natural Body Inc.)
Distribution & International
The international functional food category, more specifically in the sports nutrition channel, is lagging the current aggressive growth rate in the US. Sales of functional foods domestically are growing quickly and the opportunities to jump from brick and mortar sales to high volume FDM sales continues at a rapid pace. Globally however, many of the US brands are struggling to have much success in other countries. The locally made products abroad have already established a foothold and unless you are an extremely well-known global brand or have a unique product, it’s going to be a longer road to success. Exchange rates, labeling regulations and tariffs will continue to make this category one of the tougher to achieve global stardom in 2019. — Richard White (CEO — Sportika Export)
As with the general industry, the sports nutrition market’s hottest trend will be the inclusion of cannabidiol (CBD) in consumer products. With the 2018 Farm Bill now signed into law, CBD that is extracted from Hemp is no longer a controlled substance, meaning that the DEA cannot take action against the possession, transport, or sale of CBD that is derived from Hemp. While the new law doesn’t change FDA’s clear opinion that CBD is not a permissible dietary ingredient, dietary supplement, or food additive, that isn’t stopping marketers from taking the risk of launching new CBD-containing products in hopes that FDA’s position may evolve. It’s also noteworthy that FDA’s warning letters to CBD marketers have so far focused on disease claims, which are generally less prevalent in the sports nutrition category. Absent broader enforcement actions by FDA, we should expect to see CBD showing up in more sports nutrition recovery products in 2019. — Rick Collins, Esq. (Founding Partner — Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry)
I believe in 2019 we are going to continue to see the healthy snack category grow. More brands will bring to market healthy snack options that are macro-friendly and even high in protein to compete against things such as nutrition/protein bars. Consumers are getting sick of the same old variety of protein bars being used as “snacks” and demand something unique and full of flavor. — Matt Weik (CEO — Weik Fitness)
I see the hottest trend in the sports nutrition world being category expansion by brands. More brands are getting into the beverage industry via energy drink or other functional beverage items like MAN Sports Brain Bridge and Xtend’s new amino beverage. This is a very hard area to succeed, but with a differentiated approach, brands could be successful (i.e. nootropic, mushrooms, etc.). — Ryan Bucki (CEO — Fitness Informant)
In the diet world, combating insulin and insulin resistance is king, but education remains difficult. Low-Carb / High-Fat is the easiest method, but there are others like fasting, resistance training, and supplements like berberine. Calories In vs. Calories Out for long-term weight loss is as good as dead, but apps like MyFitnessPal still have use and will still do well. Also, I see more carbonated cans coming throughout the year. — Mike Roberto (Founder — PricePlow)