January 2023

January 18, 2023

Happy New Year!

We are definitely at that point in January where we joke about whether it is time to forget the ‘new year’ greetings - so from Nutrition Integrated, this is definitely the last time! 

That said, we wish you a great 2023 and to help you along the way, we wanted to focus this month’s Uncovered on some of our predictions for the year ahead.


Our 2023 “so what”

January is prime prediction time and like many others we wanted to contribute to the conversation. 

And “conversation” really is the keyword as we believe no one should be walking into 2023 unaware of the primary trends. In fact, we’d suggest they are obvious.

As such, we believe these conversations should be focused on the “so what”, i.e. what do the trends really mean and how do they fit into the dynamics of the active nutrition category today. 

Simply stating “plant is important” is no longer good enough.

So where do we start? Well, firstly let’s outline the key trends shaping the active nutrition market in 2023 and build from there. The list is not exhaustive, but this is definitely a good starting point of where to focus your attention.

Figure 1. Ten trends shaping the future of enhanced nutrition

Now let’s discuss what we believe is interesting about these trends

01. PROactive nutrition

Consumers are recalibrating, with more interest in wellbeing, emotional fulfillment and social good. Life is about balance, and less so optimisation. In fact, whilst consumers continue to maximise today, they are more cognisantly living for tomorrow -  to the extent that active nutrition is increasingly active ageing. 

As the (adapted) saying goes… “If you want to know why you look like you do today, look at what you did in the past. So if you want to know what you will look like in the future, look at what you do today”. 

We’ve always described this as “your” high definition picture. Every exercise occasion, and every meal or snack is a pixel in your high definition picture. If you want to be mobile, healthy and happy as you age, treat everyday as a pixel. 

In simple terms, more consumers than ever are more sensitive towards the importance of being healthier through a combination of exercise and nutrition.


02. Engineered Naturalness

Consumers want products to be more natural, which can range from using more plants, adding less sugar, sourcing organic ingredients, or being more sustainable (etc). 

The three things we think are important are:

  • The perception of plant protein remains dissociated from muscle building and therefore as protein continues to become more relevant to more people, it is going to be plant protein that prospers. To back this up, we already see an equal number of product launches with plant protein as we do dairy (whey) protein. 
  • Take the junk out of the junkfood. This is taken from Urban Legends, but we love it. Basically, trying to get more consumers to eat something healthy is hard. It is much easier to make unhealthy foods “healthier”. Cue chocolate bars high in protein…
  • Mimetic fermentation. We could take the topic of precision fermentation in general, but we already know about that. In our view, the abiding principle needs to be about biological mimetics - the biological like for like - and this is where we see some excitement about the latest vegan collagen products on the market - assuming they have the research to back up the benefits!

03. A sustainable future

We recently recorded a webinar on the sustainability of the active nutrition category, where only 16% of active nutrition brands (of 4190 brands) had a dedicated sustainability page. 

But as more brands look to adopt strategies focused on climate, nature, packaging and/or sourcing, we believe that consumers will demand more of brands and businesses regarding insetting vs. offsetting. 

Insetting is a strategy that directly changes and improves your own business footprint, whilst offsetting is about doing good outside of your own footprint - think ‘planting a tree’. If we are truly going to change as an industry, then we have to double down on our insetting efforts.

04. A memorable experience

Everyones likes to talk about taste, flavour, or format - and they are super important to making products more accessible.. But they are a given and miss the point about what they are trying to achieve. And that is about creating a memorable experience such that consumers want to tell someone else about it (the product). 

So expect more flavour collaborations, more accessible formats, more functional foods. However, our guess is that you’ll see more product plus hardware combinations. It is therefore not just the product, but how the product can be used in combination with hardware and that hardware is what consumers want to be seen using. 

For those of you used to some of our communications, Vejo is frequently mentioned. Whether they are successful or not, the concept is one to learn from.

05. One size doesn’t fit all

It should not come as a surprise that personalisation, or customisation is key. But in 2023 so many of these propositions fail to deliver a truly life changing experience. In fact they are too exhaustive and drain the time, effort and motivation of consumers. 

That is why our abiding principle is ‘simplified sophistication’ and the importance of keeping the diagnostic simple or few. 

This is why continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is where we’ve focused our attention. A simple measure with fundamental outcomes, whether performance, health or energy. 

In fact, it is a variable that helps educate consumers on the most foundational aspects of nutrition, i.e. how they respond (insulin / glucose) to different foods throughout the day. It is also linked to the microbiome as shown by its adoption within the Tim Spector / Zoe project. Expect that level of exposure to catapult its mainstream awareness and application.

06. A gut feeling

The microbiome is one of the most important target areas to improve human health. And it is not just about symptoms of gut discomfort but multiple interrelated benefits. It is our second brain with huge scientific development on the ‘gut-brain’ axis. It remains primed for huge growth, not least an alignment to technology and personalisation.

As such, gut health will become a prerequisite feature of all products focused on holistic health, whilst there will be more health brands built around the gut as a central proposition. 

We can’t see an active nutrition world that won’t talk about the gut in the same lens to that of protein. Ok maybe not quite to that extent in 2023, but the momentum is shifting in that direction.

07. Brain first

Who hasn’t said “healthy body, healthy mind” , or even “look good, feel good”? Two phrases that slip off the tongue. 

However, given the last few years of turmoil,  that includes a pandemic, inflation, and political uncertainty, there is no doubt that the brain has become an area of interest, particularly across four areas - focus (or energy), cognition, mood and sleep.

So what has this got to do with the phrases? Simple. They will be reframed where the brain takes precedence and consumers will look to engage with brands and products more on the premise of “healthy mind, healthy body” and “feel good, look good”. 

It’s subtle, but it’s significant.

08. Biological based nutrition

Yes, the focus here is primarily on females, however we should say from the outset that men’s health is also of huge interest as collectively biological based nutrition looks to break the taboo and overtly tackle the challenges female and male consumers face on a daily basis and/or as they age. 

And that is the primary “so what”. It is not just about launching a new product towards men or women, it is the fact that the growth of this area will be entrenched in a digital space as authentic based brand owners and/or influencers will create emotive narratives about how challenges such menopause or erectile dysfunction should not be problems to hide from, but positively tackle through the collective engagement of a community.

There will be a status associated with personal transparency.

09. Convenient food

Food used to be the world of CPG not FMCG. 

Today, it represents the redefinition of the meal replacement in multiple formats and propositions and is the domain of brands dissociated from the traditional mainstream. 

In the bigger picture, it is now seen as proactive to consume a healthy ready meal rather than a cheap (or cheat) alternative. So if the context of price per serve (or meal) can be better communicated, whilst focus is attributed to which meal or time of day when people need a convenient solution more than any other, we don’t see anything other than continued, if not accelerated, growth.

But how will this category evolve? It will start with breaking the monotony of the ready meals. Just like many consumers don’t want a sandwich everyday, consumers don’t want the same powdered meal everyday. So expect more types of foods/meals to choose from. 

Further, expect brands to play with broader segmentation, whether it is price point (good, better, best), needs, activity or gourmet.

10. A virtual world

The obvious place to start here is gaming and energy drinks - and we believe (based on the amount of new products we see) that this will continue to grow. In fact, looking at the numbers associated with Sneak, Levlup, Holy and GFuel there is clearly an opportunity for the brands that find the right (authentic) traction.

But for us, gaming is representative of the larger digital revolution and the generational shift of younger consumers who are digitally native. The premise of the virtual world for the majority is about recognising that the consumer is shifting with time and therefore brands need to ensure they are fit for purpose. 

It also means that the virtual world is fast becoming everyone’s world.

But what about the virtual world of sport and exercise? Consumers already exercise online, in the example of Zwift you exercise as an avatar with other avatar friends. Virtual gyms also exist. The virtual exercise world is the future and whilst it isn’t really this simple, I wonder if it will be won by a traditional sports nutrition brand or gaming brand. 

Because someone will win in this space, and they’ll win big. Let the race begin!

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