Meiji eyes 30% growth in sports nutrition business as Tokyo Olympics draws near

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Meiji’s bestselling sports nutrition product in Japan is the SAVAS Whey Protein 100 Cocoa ©Meiji
Meiji’s bestselling sports nutrition product in Japan is the SAVAS Whey Protein 100 Cocoa ©Meiji

Related tags Meiji Japan Sports nutrition Olympic games

Meiji is aiming for a 30% growth in sales of its sports nutrition products this year, with the firm hoping to capitalise on the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Last year’s full-year sports nutrition sales for the company grew 20% compared to FYE March 2018.

Meiji’s two main brands in sports nutrition are VAAM and SAVAS, which together account for a market share​ of 53.9% in Japan. SAVAS is a whey-based supplement, while VAAM is an amino-acid supplement.

In particular, sales of SAVAS milk protein had been growing rapidly, noted Yoshitaka Inoue, from the nutritionals marketing department at Meiji.

Inoue told NutraIngredients-Asia​ that Meiji’s bestselling sports nutrition product in Japan is the SAVAS Whey Protein 100 Cocoa.

Effect of Olympics

With the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games drawing near, Inoue told us the events will significantly influence the sports nutrition industry in Japan.

The increase of sports population leads to the increase in sales of sports products because general consumers will start exercising after the Olympics and Paralympics games.

“In addition to the every-day training, nutritional management is crucial for the athletes to get into a good physical condition. As these athletes share their nutritional profiles and diets, people will start becoming more interested in sports nutritional products​.”

The market size of sports nutrition products in Japan is expected to reach JPY 49,700 million (US$ 451 million) in FY 2019 which was a 10.2% y-o-y growth from FY 2018.

Protein still king ​ 

According to Inoue, protein is a growing trend in Japan’s sports nutrition market. “Sales of sports protein is increasing because people are very much interested in exercise/sports and health maintenance/enhancement​.”

He said there was an increase in the market demand for protein powders, ready-to-drink shakes, as well as protein bars.

He said: “Professional athletes and sports enthusiasts prefer powder products while general consumers like drinking products. Drinking products are easy-to-drink and sales of these products are increasing largely​.”

According to a survey conducted by Yano Research Institute​, products containing protein have been growing every year since 2016. For instance, protein drinks reached JPY 9,000 million (US$ 81 million) in FY2018, from just JPY 2,000 million in FY2016.

Protein jellies also grew to reach JPY 4,250m in FY2018 from JPY 3,360m in FY2016. Protein bars were worth JPY 7,220m in FY2018 from JPY 4,360m in FY2016.

Inoue also observed a trend in alternative protein sources, such as plant-protein.

According to Lumina Intelligence​, 19% of bestselling sports nutrition protein powders in Japan are plant-based. High rates of lactose intolerance in Japan gives plant proteins a boost, and unlike in the west where pea is the most common plant-protein source, in Japan soy protein is top.

Meiji says it will continue to conduct detailed dietary surveys for athletes, sports enthusiast and students to check and evaluate if their dietary habits are well-balanced. “Based on the results we will develop products containing sufficient nutrients for them​,” and meet these consumers’ needs in sports nutrition, Inoue said.

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