Spaniards are becoming increasingly health conscious, with many people aiming to achieve a “Danone body”, modelling themselves on the fit and toned figure of a 20-year-old Danone advert. The trend is boosting sales of nutritional supplements, healthy foods and sports drinks. Ivan Castano reports from Madrid.

These days, Spaniards are becoming increasingly interested in staying fit and healthy, and the trend is boosting sales of nutritional supplements such as fat burners, vitamins and sport drinks.

“It’s all about having a ‘Danone body’,” muses Berta Sanz, who heads sales for US sports supplements maker Weider in Spain, recalling an older advertising campaign in which models ate fat free Danone yoghurts to achieve beautifully shaped (fit and toned) ‘Danone bodies’.

The campaign ran 20 years ago but it was so successful that the Danone body concept became a beauty cannon in Spain. Now, as Spaniards become more attuned to the “look good, feel healthy” image sweeping the developed world, the cannon is gaining fresh momentum.

“Gyms are proliferating and sales of health foods and slimming products are booming,” Sanz notes, adding that dietetics, vitamins and food/sport supplements lead the way.

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Weider, which Sanz says leads Spain’s sports-nutrition industry, could see wellness and fitness food sales grow more than 15% annually by 2010 from €600m (US$720.5m) rung up last year.

Sales of weight-loss products soar

“Fat burners are hot,” says Monica Cordavias, who owns the Energy Power gym food shop in Madrid’s gay quarter of Chueca where such stores have mushroomed to cater to a body-conscious gay and metrosexual clientele.

Sales of weight-loss products have soared this year, Cordavias notes, surpassing other categories. Protein shakes, sports bars and drinks have also sold well, although less than high-flying fat burners and creatinine products. She predicts that Spain’s wellness and fitness market could grow 15% a year in the medium term.

Analysts at Euromonitor Research are also optimistic about the market, albeit less euphoric than the manufacturers and retailers. They say that dietary supplements, vitamins and sports drinks present the highest growth potential.

According to a recent Euromonitor report, the dietary-supplements sector – mainly for slimming products – will grow 17% to  €166.8m between 2005 and 2009 while vitamin sales should rise 15% to €84m, driven by multi-vitamin labels, which are perceived as more valuable than concentrated products.

Functional sports drinks are also growing at double-digit rates, bolstered by strong demand and aggressive product launches and advertising campaigns from brands such as Powerade, Gatorade and Aquarius. The category experienced a 29% sales jump to  €155m last year, Euromonitor adds.

Dietary supplements also gained 6% last year, surpassing vitamin sales and driven by evening primrose oil and calcium products, Euromonitor points out, adding that seven million people, representing 65% of Spanish families, buy dietary and vitamin products on a regular basis.

The trend should continue, the analysts say, as Spaniards emulate the self-image and health-enhancing trends of consumers in other rich European nations.

“Self-image is, like in other European countries, very important in today’s Spanish population,” Euromonitor writes, adding that anti-ageing products will also tend to stimulate sales of vitamins and dietary supplements in the Spanish market. Moreover, manufacturers are expected to increasingly target Spain’s elderly population, one of Europe’s fastest growing, launching a slew of products tailored to that market.

Organic foods seen growing 21% by 2010

According to Euromonitor, “Better for you” foods such as low-carb and low-fat lines are also growing at healthy rates. Sales are forecast to rise 6% to €2.04bn in the next five years, fuelled by the emerging organic foods market, which is virtually unexploited in Spain, where sales should expand 21% in the period.

Sales of “naturally healthy” products such as high-fibre and soy-based foods are seen rising 3.4% to €2.4bn. The market for functional and fortified foods, such as Omega 3 and mineral-rich dairy products, should grow 1.5% to €1.5bn, down from 12.5% in the prior five-year period, Euromonitor adds. The market is maturing, observers say, amid a plethora of brands and competition from other nutraceutical products.

Roberto Dominguez, commercial director for energy cookies and low-fat snacks maker Chip Sport, says that the market for healthy snacks is growing strongly.

“There has been a big increase in the consumption of these products from people who want to look good and be healthier,” he says, adding that the “good for you” snacks sector could grow 20% annually in the next five years.

To profit from that trend, the Basque Country-based enterprise is set to introduce a new fat-free snack line, Dominguez reveals. The line will complement its existing dry-fruit and wheat-soy flower cookies and energy bars.

Bodybuilding loses its muscle

Despite Spain’s fitness and wellness craze, observers say that Danone body addicts are outnumbering body builders, hurting food-supplement sales in the category.

“Most people want a pretty and defined body rather than a voluminous one,” Weider’s Sanz points out. “The bodybuilding trend is gradually disappearing.”

To adapt, Weider is focusing more on launching new products for its fitness and wellness product lines and might curb launches for its bodybuilding division, Sanz adds.

Cordavias, who also owns the Energym fitness club a short distance from her shop, says that bodybuilding supplement sales have fallen 10% this year. She attributes the decline to a maturing sector and the recent arrival of multi-ingredient products to the market, which are hurting purchases of concentrated products.

“You have these new pills and shakes that can include aminoacids, creatinine, glutamine, taurine, minerals and vitamins in one shot, whereas before people bought these products individually,” she explains. 

The products, made by suppliers such as Prolab, Quamtrax and HDT, are pricier but have won consumers’ favour, she says. As a result, the muscle building product checkout has thinned.

“One of these [concentrated] products can cost €40-50, whereas buying them separately can cost €50 for a burner and €25 for protein,” Cordavias points out.

Still, Adrian Gomez, who manages the nearby Viva El Musculo weightlifter’s food store, says that while sales are declining, they could still rise 5% a year compared to 10% for wellness products, which he also sells in the store. Both categories are still good business, he notes, adding that the company, which owns three other muscle shops in Madrid, is not ruling out opening more in the future.

Whatever happens to bodybuilding, one thing is for sure: Spaniards are becoming more image-conscious, and as gyms expand, nutritional food retailers should continue to benefit from growing business.