Vitaco targets unique needs of female athletes with new women-centred sports nutrition brand

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

ATHENA’s line-up comprises protein powders and bars to address specific needs of female athletes. ©Vitaco
ATHENA’s line-up comprises protein powders and bars to address specific needs of female athletes. ©Vitaco

Related tags women's health Sports nutrition ANZ Protein Creatine electrolytes

Vitaco has launched a new sports nutrition brand ATHENA that is dedicated to helping women achieve their sporting and fitness goals, with products specifically formulated to meet the unique needs of female athletes.

Based in Australia and New Zealand, the company is also home to leading sports nutrition brand Musashi.

“Our research has shown that women’s sports is experiencing a strong trajectory of growth worldwide, particularly in the last two years. For example, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand saw attendance of 50,000 to 70,000 people at the games.

“Leveraging our understanding of sports nutrition, we explored the needs of athletic women and found them to be significantly different from that of their male counterparts. With that information, we went about the development of a whole new brand,” ​Craig Kearney, CEO of Vitaco, told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

Kearney added that female Olympians and sports nutritionists were consulted during product development, with formulations catering to the specific needs of women athletes.

For example, iron is an important mineral for both sexes, but the depletion of iron in women is considerably stronger than in men.

“The need for iron consumption is much higher in women than men, and iron depletion in a female’s body is not necessarily caused by menstruation. It is two to three times more likely due to athletic pursuits and sports. Thus, we increased the amount of iron in our products to satisfy the requirements of a female athlete.

“Additionally, female athletes are two to four times more likely to have stress fractures than male athletes, and one of the reasons for that is a lack of calcium. Likewise, we have made products with much greater calcium content to help strengthen the bones of women.”

Other notable differences between male and female athletes include protein requirements and gut microbiota.

“Our products are formulated with prebiotics and probiotics to enhance absorption of minerals and protein in the gut that are specifically needed for a female athlete.

“There hasn’t been a brand in the market that is purely designed for female athletes. There are brands that claim their products can be used for both men and women, but because their needs are so different, such products do not appropriately meet those needs.”

Primary focus on ANZ

ATHENA is currently available online and at Chemist Warehouse and Coles Group stores in Australia, as well as online sports retailers, petrol stations, Countdown, Woolworths Supermarkets, PAK’nSAVE, New World, and Chemist Warehouse in New Zealand.

During its launch event at a sporting expo in Melbourne, the brand received “encouraging feedback” for its protein bars.

“It’s too early to give any data on sales or consumer uptake, but we are highly confident about our brand. Nevertheless, new brands are always fraught with risk, so we are first going to see how we do and refine [our products], before looking at bringing them to markets outside of New Zealand and Australia.

“Our retail partners are extremely supportive and just as enthusiastic as we are. Beyond an exciting opportunity, I’m genuinely delighted to see women’s sports take off brilliantly in recent years and that Vitaco is able to help in our little way to support and nurture female athletes locally, and hopefully globally in the end,” ​said Kearney.

For now, the company is focusing on building brand awareness through female athlete ambassadors and advertising activities.

athena inside
©Vitaco

Making the workout count

According to Kearney, ATHENA is targeted at helping female athletes better prepare for a workout, improve performance, and enhance post-exercise recovery.

“Recovery is important because you could very well train hard on Monday, but if you can’t recover quickly enough to train hard again on Tuesday, then you lose your ability to improve continuously and rapidly.

“Another thing that we found through our research is that female athletes lose more sweat and dehydrate more than males do. Retaining hydration levels with electrolytes and creatine during the exercise process, and supporting recovery with protein drinks, are crucial. This is what our products seek to address.”

ATHENA’s line-up comprises protein powders and bars made of different ingredient combinations.

“The one that people talk about is ‘Protein Water + Collagen’, a refreshing blend of whey protein isolate, Tendoforte collagen and digestive enzymes to support training. It is a palatable and easy way to consume protein.

“The ‘Pre workout + Electrolytes’ and ‘Creatine + Electrolytes’ supplement powders are also gaining a lot of interest, as these are unique combinations of ingredients that we haven’t seen in the market.”

Specifically, Pre workout + Electrolytes contains creatine, amino acids and electrolytes to support energy and performance, while Creatine + Electrolytes is formulated with creatine monohydrate and electrolytes, which claim to help enhance exercise outcomes and increase muscle strength.

“The sports nutrition category is going through accelerated growth. Most markets around the world have been growing at 10 to 15% per annum for the last couple of years.

“Instead of radical new ingredients, I think the category is going to be more segmented. Things will become more specialised rather than general — for example, there will be more bespoke formulations for a specific audience. ATHENA is a perfect example of that.”

In terms of product formats, Kearney believes that protein bars will remain popular, and that there is a possibility of formats like effervescent tablet and gummy becoming a more convenient way of consuming sports nutrition.

“More and more formats will invariably come out, but the reality is that protein in a shake is still going to be the best thing you can get. It’s hard to compile a therapeutic dose into a small effervescent tablet or capsule.

“That said, Musashi is working on a capsule format for creatine and electrolytes, which usually come in powder form. We are using our vitamin know-know and manufacturing capabilities to bring supplement-type products into the sports nutrition category.”

Women’s Health and Active Lifestyle Nutrition will be key topics of focus at Growth Asia Summit 2024 – join us in Singapore to learn about market opportunities and glean insights from major industry experts. Find out more here

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