Exploring the Rapid Expansion of the UK’s Sports and Nutrition Industries

International Career Institute UK - Exploring the Rapid Expansion of the UK’s Sports and Nutrition Industries

The UK sports and nutrition supplements sectors are growing rapidly, bringing with them an abundance of opportunities for entrepreneurs and job seekers. If you’re looking to enter the field by starting your own business or by working as an employee, you’ll want to know about the key trends shaping these industries in the coming years. These top trends reveal an industry that’s likely to grow both by volume and product/service range in the coming years.

1. Sports nutrition products: going mainstream

Protein powders, muscle milks, energy gels, and protein powders are some of the niche products traditionally used by bodybuilders and athletes, but today, they’re basically mainstream. As an indication of sports nutrition’s increasing hold over the everyday consumer, a study found that almost 24% of all Britons had used a sports nutrition product in a given three-month period. This figure rose to 42% for men aged between 16 and 24. Sales of sports nutrition products leapt from £52 million in 2013 to £66 million in 2015.

Among consumers who bought these products, nearly half (47%) stated the products were part of their everyday diet. Consumption tended to be the most concentrated among younger consumers and high-income earners, and 31% of those with household incomes of over £50,000 had consumed sports nutrition products in the given three-month period. Younger consumers and higher earners tend to be enthusiastic exercisers. The lifestyle-user trend underscores the shift away from exclusive use by athletes and bodybuilders to use by the mainstream.

High-protein focus

The focus of this trend has been on protein enrichment, with the two top sports nutrition products being protein based. Protein bars and protein powders tend to have the same level of market penetration, with around one in 10 UK consumers having consumed either during the given three-month period.

Food and drink products with high-protein claims are also rising dramatically in the UK. For consumers, reasons for choosing high-protein products include good health, staying full for longer, and to lose or maintain weight. Consumer say they’re interested in possible high-protein products like high-protein prepared meals and protein powders you can add to meals.

These trends suggest there’s a lot of opportunity for those with qualifications in nutrition to enter the market as an entrepreneur or an employee. For example, given growing consumer interest in high-protein products and other sports nutrition goods, businesses in the field might be looking to expand their research, sales, and operations departments. With a qualification in nutrition, you could excel in marketing and sales, business development, or even product research and development.

2. Demand for more choice and personalised approaches

Research suggests consumers are taking charge of their own health and weight management, with growing demand for personalised approaches to wellness. Whether it’s the category of sports nutrition, weight management, or healthful snacking, consumers want clean, plant-based products, preferably made using healthy fats and proteins. Trends within the demand for personalisation and more choice include the following:

  • Natural foods – Consumers are likely to continue demanding  naturally functional foods made using complex carbs like seeds and grains, as well as healthy fats. Products with sports-performance and weight-management benefits will be sought after. Protein products like whey are also likely to grow in popularity.
  • Free-from and digestion-boosting products – Products with free-from labels (such as dairy free, sugar free, and gluten free) are likely to grow in demand. Demand for products claiming digestion-boosting benefits is also likely to rise.
  • Superfoods – Products made from plant-based superfoods such as raw cacao will continue to enter the mainstream.
  • Industry consolidation – Consolidation between industries such as food, technology, and pharma could occur as consumers demand more personalisation reaching across every part of their healthy lifestyle. Data and analytics could feature as part of the new services and/or products that come out of this consolidation.
  • Seniors – An ageing population and the associated higher rates of chronic disease could drive a stronger focus on prevention through nutrition and lifestyle, and personalisation could be part of this.

More personalisation and more choice could suggest businesses need to provide their target customer base with support and information for products and services, along with a broader range of products and services.  Qualifications in nutrition and personal training could be in high demand for everything from marketing and product development to product support and after-sales customer relationships. Businesses providing health services like fitness programs will likely need to employ more staff members with personal training qualifications.

3. Clean labelling

Working in the nutrition and wellness field requires up-to-date knowledge with nutrition principles. The strong demand for clean-label and free-from products could lead to more employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for those with nutrition qualifications. With consumers  wanting to know more about the origins and manufacturing processes of their supplements and health food products, companies need to be more informed than ever about nutritional principles.

Knowledge in health will be highly regarded by employers, who may need to fill roles in product development, customer service, marketing, retail, and sales with employees with health and nutrition qualifications.  Customer-facing roles in retail will require employees with specialist knowledge so they can give personalised and accurate advice. Other job functions that could be in high demand include supply chain sourcing for  high-quality ingredients, and educating retailers as wholesalers supply products to these retail stores.

4. Demand from seniors

As mentioned above, the ageing population is likely to contribute to stronger demand for supplements and natural products. Along with  stronger overall demand, it’s likely  the ‘mega-elderly’ demographic and their carer-children will demand more information and more products and services. While the internet appears to provide a wealth of information, much of it is  low quality or even untrustworthy content. This could mean businesses that can educate their target market with ethical, reliable health information about supplements and health products could gain an edge over competitors.

5. Professional sport industry

The UK is a sport-loving nation, and experts predict the country’s love of watching and participating in sports is likely to continue growing faster than the GDP in the coming decade. In the UK, the sport industry is so large that it’s ranked among the top 15 mainstream activities in the economy. In an industry already worth  more than £24bn a year, everything from the  NFL and the NBA to the UFC could be driving more roles in agencies, event development, sponsorship, consulting, and marketing.

While professional athletes will likely need more personal trainers, nutritionists, and other support staff, the interest in watching sports could be linked to a passion for participating in fitness activities. The demand for personal nutritionists and fitness trainers could rise as a result. Those with qualifications in nutrition or personal training could find themselves in high demand as the country’s passion for watching and participating in sports continues to grow rapidly. Education experts believe sports graduates could do well in fields beyond sports and fitness, such as in management roles, health, marketing, sales, and even teaching.

6. Other trends in the field

Strong demand for naturally functional foods is the top trend, but consumers are also interested in  weight management as part of their everyday food choices, through ‘weight wellness.’ Slow energy foods, in the form of gradual-energy-release products, also hold potential. This goes beyond blood glucose control to sustained energy release.

For kids’ products, the trend seems to be on more education and naturalness. Permission-to-indulge products are another potential trend for consumers of all age groups. These products deliver an indulgent experience, but they’re free from certain ingredients, especially allergens like soy, dairy, or wheat. Alternatively, they might offer extra nutritional benefits such as high protein content or incorporating superfood ingredients like cacao or matcha.

These trends could give rise to expanding niche sectors within the health and nutrition fields, leading to opportunities for both entrepreneurs and employees. If you have a health and nutrition qualification, or a personal training qualification, you could be highly sought after for everything from marketing and sales to product development and research.

Implications for job seekers and entrepreneurs

The growth of the sports, nutrition, and related industries bodes well for job seekers and entrepreneurs looking to enter the field. Whether you’re seeking work as a self-employed personal trainer or as an employee in the health and nutrition field, a qualification from a recognised institution can help you establish credibility with employers and clients. The variety of roles, products, and services is enormous, so you can easily find a niche area to specialise in. On the other hand, you could stay in a generalist role such as sales and marketing and work with different products from day to day.

Wellbeing, sports nutrition, and nutritional products are mainstream industries in the UK, and they continue to grow rapidly. Strong demand from consumers – from professional athletes to everyday consumers and seniors – is driving rapid growth in the sector. Nutritional supplements, natural foods, and sports nutrition are some of the key subsectors, but the potential for specialist areas like seniors’ wellbeing is also strong.

If you’re passionate about fitness and health, a qualification in personal training or natural health could be the start of a new career for you. International Career Institute UK is an accredited provider of high-quality courses in the personal training and health fields. We offer flexible study programs that could see you embarking on an exciting new career. Contact us today, or explore our website for more information.

Career focused, distance education programs. Explore your opportunities to study Nutrition Courses here to find your next course.

Online, career focused education that suits your lifestyle.

See our courses
Gladys Mae

Gladys is the Associate Director of Admissions & Student Services with over 10 years of experience at the International Career Institute.