Herbalife Nutrition conducted tours with America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team, the LA Galaxy, in Indonesia and Japan last December.
Besides being the official nutrition and jersey partner for the team in the past 12 years, the company sponsors more than 190 world-class athletes, teams and events globally.
Stephen Conchie, senior VP and MD, APAC at Herbalife Nutrition, outlined key benefits that sports partnerships bring to NutraIngredients-Asia.
First, the company believes that such partnerships provide a broad-based platform to effectively encourage healthy active lifestyles that are supported by good nutrition.
“We see a positive impact on our brand awareness and the use of Herbalife Nutrition products.
“Our relationship with LA Galaxy and other athletes around the world exemplify the healthy active lifestyle that we promote,” Conchie said.
Second, such partnerships also allow the firm to gather more data about how our products affect athletic performance and apply it to the evolving sports science field.
Based on the data collected, the firm is able to implement nutritional interventions to improve upon the results that it has received, such as athletes being dehydrated.
In addition, the firm is learning to better understand demands of the athletes, which will in turn inform future product development.
“The partnership also focuses on building trust with these athletes and creating effective and personalised nutrition plans to help them meet their individual fitness goals.
“We integrate nutrition with their workouts, starting with a pre-workout drink, a workout booster and finishing with the post-workout shake.”
Working closely with the athletes in turn allows the firm to learn of upcoming trends within the athletic community, including what are athletes looking for in sports nutrition products and how the firm is able to support them through future product development.
To take a step further, he said that the company ensured that its Herbalife24 sports product line is NSF Certified for Sport.
“Many of the professional athletes we work with get tested for banned substances several times a year, so this product criteria is incredibly important for them.”
To qualify for the NSF certification, firms will need to adhere to a several requirements, such as omitting any substances banned by major athletic organisations in their products.
The by NSF International will also audit the manufacturing facility twice a year to ensure product quality and safety.
Besides the athletes, he added that the Herbalife24 range of sports nutrition products is targeted towards “younger and active consumers who are keen to reach their highest performance level with nutrition products that boost training and recovery time.”
Cultivating the market
Herbalife Nutrition has formed a Nutrition Advisory Board (NAB) that educates and trains members the purpose and use of Herbalife Nutrition products, in a move to cultivate the sports nutrition market.
“The NAB helps educate and train Herbalife Nutrition members on leading a healthy, active lifestyle and getting proper nutrition, including the purpose and use of Herbalife Nutrition products.
“NAB experts also stand behind Herbalife Nutrition products and facilitate compliance with local governments,” Conchie said.
In turn, it hopes to cultivate its consumer base via the word of mouth.
“NAB members also work with the sponsored athletes. As the athletes start experiencing real benefits from using our products, these positive experiences speak to our brand’s credibility to convincingly and effectively reach the discerning sports nutrition customers.”
In terms of market leaders in the APAC region, he said that Japan would dominate the sector, due to its “higher adoption of sports drinks and food.”
“There is also strong potential for South East Asia to catch up in the coming years as their millennial population increases in size and disposable income,” he added.
As of 2017, the global market share of Herbalife’s sports nutrition products stood at 0.5%. The company owns a larger market share in the weight management sector at 19.7%, data from Euromonitor 2017 showed.
Tapping on new habits
Herbalife Nutrition has also identified three emerging sports industry trends, and the firm hopes to leverage on the changes in consumer habits to build its sports nutrition business.
One of the trends, is the adoption of digital sports coaching by the average gym-goer.
“With advances in technology, we are seeing new startups dedicated to digital sports training and personalised nutrition.
“In the next few years, we’ll see more fitness apps driven by artificial intelligence, virtual nutritionists, and elite coaches accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world,” Conchie said.
In response, the firm is thus building its presence in the digital space through the development of digital applications to engage its consumers.
Second, he said that consumers were demanding more certified supplements and granular nutrition, which would drive the direction of product development for the firm.
“The average fitness enthusiasts are becoming more discerning in terms of what they expect from a sports nutrition product.
“For example, everyday athletes who are trying to build muscle might look for specific protein sources or products with particular branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) ratios, and those performing high-intensity training may want creatine and other specific single ingredient nutrients to add to their protein shakes.”