The sports nutrition market is no longer a niche sector. Rather, these specialty products are designed for appealing to a mass-market health-conscious lifestyle. Today’s shoppers seek out varied food formats — including baked foods — to get the nutrients they need to perform at their best.

“Like other food groups, baked goods are trending toward more nutritious formulations that provide multiple benefits, such as energy management, gut health, less fat, less sugar, fewer calories, added fiber, gluten-free and more,” said Jon Peters, president, Beneo. “Taking some sugar out while keeping the label clean is particularly challenging in baked goods. However, as in all categories where there is a consumer desire, new baked goods that qualify for the sports nutrition category will continue to be developed.”

Creating indulgent baked snacks that deliver proven health benefits will be key for bakers in this growing and evolving market.

Bakers are wise to be proactive players in the U.S. sports nutrition market, which was valued at $28.4 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $45.3 billion by 2022, according to Zion Market Research.

Sports nutrition is all about improving athletic performance. The target audience includes everyone from professional athletes to those looking for an energy boost. Products include foods, beverages and supplements specially formulated with macro and micronutrients that assist with overall health, performance and muscle development.

“When formulating for sports nutrition, the carbohydrate-to-protein ratio is important for someone who is looking to gain muscle mass,” said Jeff Reget, account manager, private label nutrition, Agropur Ingredients. “The protein will assist with the rebuilding of the muscles while the carbs will provide the refuel energy needed for the protein to build up the muscles.”

Related ReadingThat target ratio is about 3-to-1, carbohydrates to protein. Baked foods have the carbs. With most products, it’s all about adding protein. The baked foods category includes a variety of finished products, so when producers want to add a sports angle, there are many opportunities such as refuel cookies and energizing muffins.

“On the sweet side, brownies, cookies and cakes are a great place to start since they offer a familiar platform to add functional ingredients,” said Alison Raban, certified food scientist, BI Nutraceuticals. “And on the savory side, crackers, flatbreads and baked chips are other platforms consumers enjoy that can be formulated to include sports nutrition ingredients.”

Ms. Raban added that some of the newest products in baked foods have been centered on smaller bites or balls, giving consumers more control over how much they eat at a given time. Smaller portions offer a convenient form of snack that they can enjoy at home, on a hike or on their way to the gym.