By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO, Asia Pacific
To many of us, healthy living in the 21st century is now strongly associated with an active lifestyle. This has given rise to the ‘sportification’ trend, resulting in increasing demand amongst mainstream consumers for sports nutrition products that meet their nutritional needs for being active. Apart from a widening audience contributing to the boom of the sports nutrition market, the rise of e-sports has also had a significant role to play in the sector’s growth.
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E-sports: The new kid on the block
COVID-19 has accelerated the popularity of e-sports with a notable increase in gamer numbers as a result of the pandemic. Asia in particular is the world’s largest and most important region for e-sports, accounting for more than half of the USD 1.1billion global e-sports market and an audience which grew by 13% in 20211.
As interest in e-sports continues to trend upwards, this represents an area of opportunity that’s prime for sports nutrition. As with other more traditional sports, performance and endurance are key for e-sports athletes, which opens up a whole new audience for sports nutrition product manufacturers.
Given the popularity of e-sports and its incredibly high stakes, with prize money going up into the millions and a captivated global audience, e-athletes are often under enormous pressure to perform at their best, and many are seeking out products that will help them excel. This target audience has diverse needs — both mental and physical — ranging from heightened concentration to enhanced reaction time, as well as the alleviation of body pain and fatigue due to being in front of a screen for prolonged periods of time.
The same can also be said for the growing number of leisure gamers, amounting to nearly 1.5 billion in the region2, who aspire to boost their performance in a similar way to e-athletes. With this in mind, there is a tremendous opportunity for manufacturers to tap into this rising trend for e-sports to formulate sportified products that can help serve the nutritional needs that e-athletes require, while also delivering mainstream appeal for recreational gamers.
Sustained energy for sustained performance
However, a particular obstacle that needs to be overcome is that sportified products should be for everybody, not just for professional athletes. Most popular sports nutrition drinks on the market today have been designed to increase energy during exercise, therefore they traditionally contain high glycaemic carbohydrates, releasing glucose into the bloodstream at a fast rate. Thus, they may be more suited for those in need of instant energy for intensive athletic trainings, such as sprinting. However, this rapid increase in glucose levels in our body is followed by a sudden decline, known as the ‘boost and crash’ effect which results in a drop in energy levels. This is especially disadvantageous for e-sports athletes who are required to perform for prolonged hours. Products that offer a quick energy boost via rapidly available carbohydrates will not deliver the sustained energy these e-athletes need to maintain concentration for a long period of time.
Meeting different consumer needs with functional carbohydrates
To address this, manufacturers can leverage functional ingredients like BENEO’s Palatinose™ for their ability to offer a balanced supply of glucose energy.
Derived from sugar beet, Palatinose™ is fully, yet slowly digestible and low-glycaemic, which contributes to an increased fat burning rate since active consumers can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer. It also provides full carbohydrate energy in a sustained way, eliminating unwanted blood sugar spikes. Additionally, scientists have found that products containing Palatinose™ can help enhance a person’s mood and memory skills3 — two very important factors when it comes to e-sports.
Palatinose™ is ideal for use in various applications as it comes with a mild sugar-like sweetening profile, is soluble, and has very low hygroscopicity — which allows it to absorb virtually no moisture and remains stable under harsh processing conditions, meaning it can be used to create a wide range of sports drinks powders, bars and other applications.
Furthermore, the physiological benefits of Palatinose™ also make it the ideal functional ingredient for use not only in products aimed at athletes but also for those targeted at casual fitness users, or for those who are beginning to get active.
The potential of the sports nutrition market is one that manufacturers should not ignore, especially with a significant driver such as e-sports making waves across the board. Luckily, food manufacturers are well-poised to leverage the potential of the market with functional ingredients, enabling them to unlock opportunities for themselves while delivering the nutritional needs of a wider and more mainstream audience.
 Esports in Asia, Niko Partners (2022) https://nikopartners.com/esports-in-asia/?lang=en
 Number of video gamers worldwide in 2021, by region. (2022) https://www.statista.com/statistics/293304/number-video-gamers/
 Young et al. (2014)
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