Global Flavor Trends in Sports Nutrition

Explore the latest global flavor trends in sports nutrition, including sports powders, RTD products and nutrition bars

Sports nutrition is a popular food and beverage category for active nutrition, with slow and steady growth over the past five years. It is important to look at flavor trends in sports nutrition since users of sports nutrition products will gravitate toward sports powders, sports drinks, and sports bars that taste the best.

Different Flavor Trends for Sports Nutrition Subcategories

Sports nutrition subcategories have different flavor profile strategies to maximize their taste appeal. Fruit flavors are most prevalent in sports nutrition beverage products, specifically sports nutrition powders and sports nutrition ready-to-drink (RTD) products. In these two sports nutrition subcategories, lime and tropical flavors are growing. Sports bar launches rely on the types of brown flavors found in cereal and snack bars.

Sports Powders Dominate Sports Nutrition Launches

Sports powders are designed to be mixed with water, milk or juice to create a sports protein drink, sports hydration drink, pre-workout energy drink, or post-workout recovery drink. Sports powders accounted for nearly three-quarters of all sports nutrition launches in 2022. This is an increase from two-thirds in 2018 as a result of a +4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the five-year period. One third of 2022 sports powder launches carried a vegan, plant-based, and/or vegetarian claim, led by vegan claims. Sugar-free and palm-oil free also expanded.

Fruit Flavors are Most Prevalent in Sports Powders

Fruit flavors account for over half of sports powder launches. Three-quarters of the top 20 flavors in sports powders are fruits, especially berries, summer fruits, citrus fruits, and exotic fruits. All top five fruit flavors in sports powders are growing, led by melon and orchard fruit flavors. Several fruit flavors rose in rank, including lime, tropical fruit, peach, and green apple. Tea and lemonade also are rising.

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Sports RTD Flavors are Similar to Powders

Ready-to-drink (RTD) sports beverages typically are positioned for hydration, electrolyte replenishment,  energy, or protein. As with sports powders, top flavors in sports RTD are fruit flavors. These also are fastest growing.  Three quarters of the top 20 flavors are fruit, with lime, “fruit”, and tea flavors rising fastest. Also watch for growth in blue raspberry, peach, mango, acai, and lychee.

Sports Nutrition Bars are Snack or Meal Replacements

Sports nutrition bars serve as snack or meal replacements that provide macronutrients such as protein and carbohydrates, along with other nutrients with sports performance benefits for muscle support and energy. Like cereal bars, sports bars feature brown and dessert flavors, including chocolate, caramel, nut, cake, cookie, and pie flavors. Because many bars historically have been made with palm oil, sports bars with a plant-based or palm oil-free claim also are marketed in chocolate, vanilla, nuts, and caramel flavors. Indulgent brown flavors are among the top flavors but they appear in just half of sports bar launches in 2022. Also, launches of brown flavors are declining, with chocolate and peanut butter becoming somewhat less prevalent. Caramel declined slightly and dropped in rank while salted caramel rose in rank. Milk chocolate is the most popular flavor in sports bars and dark chocolate is right behind.

Health-Related Claims are Associated with Different Flavor Trends

Sports nutrition products with various health-related claims have different flavor profiles from most sports nutrition products. In plant-based products, including products with plant-based protein, chocolate, vanilla, nuts, and caramel are used more often while berries, summer fruits, and citrus flavors are less common. Vegetarian sports nutrition products and vegan products likewise feature chocolate and vanilla, as well as orchard fruits. Launches that carry a palm oil-free claim are most likely to be flavored with chocolate, nuts, cookie/biscuit and vanilla because palm oil-free is most common in sports nutrition bars. Flavor trends are similar for sports nutrition products with ethical environment claims since these claims also are more common in bars. In contrast, sugar-free sports nutrition launches are most likely to be sports powders or RTD sports drinks that feature citrus, exotic, and orchard fruits, along with tea flavors.

West Europe Launches the Most Sports Nutrition Products

In 2022, two out of five global sports nutrition products were launched in West Europe. Fast-growing flavors in the region include salted caramel, tropical fruit, and bubble gum. Close to 90% of sports nutrition launches in North America are sports powders; launches of sports bars and RTD sports drink launches are declining. The fastest growing regions for sports nutrition products – Africa, Asia and East Europe – feature different flavors. Popular flavors in Asia are led by fruit flavors, with cola and pistachio flavors emerging in 2022. In the growing East European region, salted caramel grew in sports bars, while fruits and teas rose in sports powders.

What’s Next in Sports Nutrition Launches?

Based on current trends, several predictions can be made regarding sports nutrition flavors. Sports powders are likely to expand into exotic fruits and wellness superfruits like lychee and dragon fruit, cocktail-inspired flavors like margarita and mojito, and flavor combinations such as lemonade or tea combined with mainstream fruits. RTD sports drinks are expected to copy popular flavors from soft drinks such as sodas and iced tea and to add exotic fruits or wellness superfruits to mainstream flavors like lime or tea. Sports bars will continue their movement toward dark chocolate, often in combination with flavors from berries, citrus fruits, and summer fruits.


This article is based on our Flavor Insider report, “Global Flavor Trends in Sports Nutrition.” If you are interested in reading our report on global sports nutrition flavor trends, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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