Feeling the heat: Firm eyes APAC sports nutrition market with hot post-workout beverage
The company most recently exhibited at FOODEX Japan, and has also expressed interest in entering the South Korean market.
Sold under the brand Fit4Style, Matok V’Kal’s sports nutrition range is its newest venture, and features two products: the Fit4Style Energy Spray and Fit4Style Protein Cup.
While the company has been manufacturing sugar substitutes since 1975, it only recently decided to venture into the world of sports nutrition. Its main goal, it has said, is to provide on-the-go sports nutrition for active consumers.
Currently, its products are sold in online, as well as in retail, convenience and specialty stores in Israel.
The Fit4Style Protein Cup is the company's latest launch, and involves a proprietary technology that makes it possible for consumers to enjoy a piping hot post-workout protein drink.
The drink is marketed as a vegan protein shake containing and 21g of protein and 4g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs, including 2.7g L-leucine essential for building muscle tissue after exercise) per serving; it is also free of lactose and soy.
It comes in a disposable cup containing the protein mixture, a stirrer and a cap. Users simply have to remove the cup’s aluminium seal, add hot water, and stir before drinking, which Matok V’Kal says saves them the hassle of relying on a shaker bottle or having to buy large tubs of protein powder.
The product comes in three flavours: salted caramel, coffee, and vanilla.
CEO Noam Kaplan told NutraIngredients-Asia: “Hot protein drinks are not available in the market. We did qualitative research and found that in many forums, a very frequent question is how to make a hot protein drink.
“Usually, the answer would be to make a cold protein drink and then heat it up in the microwave, which is very inconvenient. So we came up with an elegant and easy way to make a hot protein drink.”
However, the challenge of making such a drink was to come up with a solution that would not cause the proteins to coagulate in hot water as cold water-dispersible proteins usually do.
“In order to overcome these challenges, we searched for very specific ingredients, with each one already suitable for dispersion in certain mediums. Their combination with other raw materials, however, resulted in excellent dispersion in our formula,” said Kaplan.
He had earlier said that he inspiration for the product came from consumer demand for a hot protein drink in an easy-to-use format.
In February this year, Matok V’kal debuted its sports nutrition range with its Fit4Style Energy Spray, a mint-flavoured shot designed to boost energy during exercise.
Containing a mere six calories, 1.3g of carbohydrates, peppermint extract and no caffeine or other stimulants, the product is said to be able to help boost stamina for up to an hour and 15 minutes during high-endurance workouts and sports.
To ramp up the convenience factor, the oral energy spray comes in a reusable package that can be attached to clothing for quick access during exercise. The product’s low calorie count is meant to place a minimal amount of stress on the digestive system so as not to interfere with the user’s workout.
The company developed this product based on a study that showed how certain carbohydrate compounds in the mouth could help to mimic ingestion of caloric energy, thereby ‘tricking’ the body into generating a short burst of added energy.
The study in question was a double-blind clinical study showing that oral ingestion of peppermint oil led to instant effects on physiological parameters and exercise performance within five minutes, with incremental improvement after one hour.
According to Kaplan, Matok V’Kal had consulted with food tech innovation experts at Practical Innovation, and the Fit4Style Energy Spray offers a new solution for short-duration, high-endurance workouts and sporting activities.
He said: “The innovation is backed by a growing body of research and recommendations by global sports groups that found that, in a workout of up to 75 minutes, there is no need to consume carbohydrates; it is sufficient to have their presence in the mouth.
“By tricking the mind into believing it is being nourished — relying on the sensation of food energy without actually providing it — the information is converted into actual energy.”
Indeed, recent studies have reported that in addition to the five flavours the human tongue can detect, the presence of carbohydrates can also be recognised by the tongue, such that simply rinsing the mouth with certain carbohydrates can supposedly boost physical performance by activating areas of the brain that control movement.
While the underlying mechanism of action is still unclear, this effect has already been dubbed the ‘carbohydrate mouth-rinse effect’.
Matok V’Kal — which sources its ingredients from Europe, the US and Asia — believes its products can do well in Asia, as many consumers become increasingly interested in innovative sports nutrition solutions.
In countries like Japan, for instance, more consumers are looking to move away from taking supplements in table tor capsule format, as well as to find more convenient, healthier alternatives to the standard protein formats (such as powders and bars).
Kaplan said: “Fit4Style is launching all of its products in Japan. In fact, Matok V'Kal has set the Japan as its first target market in APAC.
“It is one of the fastest-growing for sports nutrition, and our new sports nutrition line appeals both to male and female consumers, with design and packaging key factors in their purchasing decisions.”
The firm is also interested in South Korea, where Kaplan believes it can appeal to female consumers.
“Female consumers tend to be bigger spenders as they like to treat themselves. With more and more women reportedly going to fitness clubs, the demand for elegant sport nutrition solutions will surely rise.”