A new report from market analyst Datamonitor reveals that British consumers are buying more sports nutrition products than ever before, turning sports nutrition from a niche segment into a mainstream category in the food industry.
 
According to the report, British consumers spent a total of GBP180m (US$337m) on sports nutrition products in 2005, and the market is forecast to grow by a further 30% to GBP235m in 2010.
 
This makes British consumers Europe's third biggest spenders on sports nutrition products behind Germany (GBP197m) and Italy (GBP187m).
 
"As well as benefiting athletes, sports food and drinks help ordinary people feel like they are living a healthier lifestyle," says Datamonitor analyst and report author John Band. "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."
 
Sports-related food and drinks are no longer niche products aimed just at professional athletes and bodybuilders, says Datamonitor.  While specialist consumers may remain the core users, recreational and lifestyle users are driving market growth and it is becoming a "lifestyle" category.
 
"People who don't live sporty lifestyles are increasingly consuming sports food or drinks to provide a refreshing beverage, a quick meal replacement or simply a snack," says Band. "Even though the actual health benefits of a sports drink or sports nutrition bars are generally confined to people doing regular, strenuous exercise, the sporty branding appeals to people's desire for 'wellness' products. It might not have any real health benefits, but it makes people feel better about themselves."