Sports nutrition is an undeveloped but growing market in China says Alan O’Brien of Bord Bia’s Shanghai Office.

He cites Euromonitor 2014 figures which show the Chinese sports nutrition market reached a sales value of 346 million RMB (€41 million) in 2013 and is forecast to grow by 9% each year over the next five years (2013-2018) to reach 523 RMB (€62.4). Powder is the mainstream product within this space, accounting for a 91% share of the overall market, whilst protein bars account for the remaining share.

O’Brien noted that the development of this market has been driven, in part, by growth of health and wellness trend in China, with younger consumers in China’s tier 1 and 2 cities adopting increasingly health-conscious lifestyles. Over the last number years, the target market for sports nutrition has been niche, geared toward athletes. Nonetheless, health epidemics in China, such as obesity (2nd only to the US market), have resulted in younger consumer’s adopting sports nutrition products, with males seeking to increase fitness and muscle mass and female focused on achieving a slender figure .

Domestic players in China currently hold the top three positions within the market according to O’Brien, but the sports nutrition market in China has not yet matured and will continue to present a core opportunity for internationals, including the Irish dairy industry.

He commented however, that it must be highlighted that strongly local marketing competencies are required in positioning products within the health and wellness space in China, a market strongly influenced by traditional medicine.