Jan 21, 2013
I was recently browsing the products in a mall nutrition supplement retail store and came to the following conclusion: Reading the labels of sport nutrition products can be a mind-blowing experience. Based on the marketing claims on the packaging it would seem that sport nutrition companies are spending millions of dollars each year on clinical trials that test the efficacy of their products on people engaged in sport training or competition…Or do they?
Sports nutrition consumers are clearly influenced by clever scientific formulations containing intriguing compounds and scientific marketing content on product labels which are strengthened by bar graphs and percentage-based claims citing research studies. The goal of this strategy is to convince the consumer that the use of the product will lead to significant improvements in strength, muscle development, endurance, metabolism, fat burning and/or other desired affects. Despite this overt application of science and research, the efficacy of most sophisticated sport nutrition product formulations remains to be substantiated by direct, final product research. In fact, in talking to Anthony Almada, a sports nutrition industry veteran and CEO of GENR8 Inc, he said that “a lack of appropriate product-specific research is the norm in the sport nutrition industry and includes products marketed to bodybuilders and strength athletes as well as endurance athletes.” Furthermore, he estimated that the number of products in the sport nutrition market with direct research – in humans and compared to a placebo is less than 0.1%!
Despite a general lack of appropriate product research in general, certainly there are several companies that research final product formulations. Gatorade set the bar early for a research-based marketing platform in sports nutrition and founded the Gatorade Sports Science Institute roughly two decades ago. While being “first to market” as well as their effective marketing of athlete endorsements has helped to secure the majority sport drink market share, one could easily argue that a significant portion of their on-going success can be attributed to research-based marketing. Meanwhile, in the early 90’s EAS pioneered the research-driven model of product development, introducing a suite of products that had been proven in university-based clinical trials before they were marketed, and invested in well over $500,000 on university research in its first four years of business. Other brands, such as Accelerade, EAS, MuscleTech, FSI and new-comer GENR8, have also dedicated money to on-going research programs and market their products based on their research foundation.
Without question, competition can be brutal in the sports nutrition industry and companies must create key points of differentiation for their brands versus competitive brands. However, a general lack of scientific marketing claims that can be substantiated reduces the image of the sport nutrition industry as a whole. Clearly, well-designed research on sport nutrition products, that are also published, can provide key marketing claims and a point of differentiation in a competitive marketplace. But the most important reason for more research on the actual products marketed to consumers should be to offer products that are likely to deliver on their promises. This is critical since many sport nutrition products are expensive.
So the next time you find your self looking for a sport nutrition product, demand research proof of its effectiveness. Check the company website for downloadable research papers and/or call them and ask for copies of the research studies that involve the actual product that you are considering buying. Also, make sure the research papers are published in a reputable science journal. Without proof you could be wasting your money.
So, what do you think? Provide your thoughts on the Sport Nutrition: Supplements Forum.