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    Sports Nutrition Product Use on Rise as 'Quick Fix': Study

    NEW YORK -- U.S. consumers are purchasing an unprecedented amount of sports nutrition products, having spent nearly $4 billion on the category last year, and with spending poised to grow to $4.8 billion in 2010, according to a report from independent market analyst Datamonitor here.

    NEW YORK -- U.S. consumers are purchasing an unprecedented amount of sports nutrition products, having spent nearly $4 billion on the category last year, and with spending poised to grow to $4.8 billion in 2010, according to a report from independent market analyst Datamonitor here.

    For many such consumers, sports nutrition items represent a hoped-for short cut to better health, the market research firm said. Once a niche segment for serious athletes, sports nutrition items have become a lifestyle category, with sometime sportspeople and even confirmed couch potatoes eagerly snapping them up, the report found.

    "As well as benefiting athletes, sports food and drinks help ordinary people feel like they are living a healthier lifestyle," said Datamonitor analyst and report author John Band in a statement. "Consumers are switching to sports drinks because they are perceived as a healthy alternative to cola or chocolate bars -- even though they often aren't."

    The fastest-growing category, that of sports bars, drinks, and gels, also makes up the largest share of the market, with sales of over $3 billion in 2005. Datamonitor forecasts sales will reach $4 billion in 2010. This growth far outpaces that of the overall consumer goods industry, as well as growth in the sports nutritional supplement (SNS) category, which is forecast to grow from $621million last year to $660 million in 2010.

    While serious athletes are still the core users of such products, recreational and lifestyle users are the ones driving market growth, according to the study. The sports food and beverages market has also received a boost from the increasingly blurred line between energy drinks and sports drinks, the report said.

    Sports nutrition products are likely become even more mainstream over the next five years, but Band cautioned, "The increase in the consumer base has enabled rapid growth, but it has made the marketing of sports nutrition products more difficult at the same time." While users of sports nutrition products in the past were mostly young males, consumers now encompass older people and more women. To succeed, marketers will have to engage in mainstream advertising, according to the report.

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