A quick note on a financial deal: British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has bought Maxinutrition, the company behind the Maximuscle brand of diet supplements and energy products. GSK is paying £162 million to acquire the company, roughly US$250 million / €190 million.

Viper Active or snake oil?

I knew Powerbar had been bought by Swiss food giant Nestlé, a sign that the market had to be big enough to attract a giant company but this confirms just how much money there is in sports nutrition. It’s also interesting to see a pharma company getting involved here, instead of delivering drugs to cure disease and illness. That said GSK already owns brands like Lucozade and Ribena.

The market for energy products and protein supplements is growing rapidly. Whereas once a healthy life meant exercise and a balanced diet, today companies are increasing vaunting the benefits of supplements, energy products and recovery mixes. With more and more people taking up sports this is a big market. It’s not just for endurance athletes and gym bunnies, I’ve also seen office workers snacking on energy bars in order to “stay competitive” in the spreadsheet arena. Yes, I’m serious.

In addition, this is attractive business because the margins can be substantial, as relatively cheap raw ingredients, whether protein or glucose can be transformed into premium products.

I am sceptical about some of the marketing claims these companies can use, it can be excessive. But there’s no doubting it has its uses. Indeed I think sports nutrition is up there with carbon fibre, Lycra, clipless pedals, bar gear shifting and decent helmets as innovations that have made big changes to the sport.

4 thoughts on “E=$²”

  1. As someone who does a modest amount of training and read up about how to do it effectively I can see the point of working out in a gym or on the road and then aiding the repair of the torn muscle fibre by consuming quality protein immediately afterwards to aid rebuilding and muscle development. I just could not face the steep prices of Maxifuel. But consumer love big brands don't they? So I use a cheaper alternative which does the same thing at half the price. They all usually taste a bit grim though… It is convenient to down a shake rather than a chicken leg after a ride and before the shower.

  2. Very true Simon, like I say I sometimes doubt the marketing messages and this is a high margin business, turning basic protein into a "must have" product. Convenient though, as Jono points out.

    For me the advance in these products is the energy food that goes in your back pocket in a race. Bananas don't last as long; but I'll sometimes take them on long training rides.

  3. It pays to be skeptical.

    Regardless of having learnt years ago that all those supplements are the perfect ingredients for expensive urine I found myself doing some research on the interweb for an aid to drop some weight for an upcoming hilly stage race.

    In summary, almost every one of the products (by the same brands, and there were MANY) had caffeine as the 'active ingredient'. Want to lose weight, better performance, more energy or cure cancer? Caffeine seems to be the miracle drug. (sorry, the 'cancer cure' thing was just my sarcasm)

    In the end I didn't do it, and still met my target weight. These items are ridiculously priced!

    Sure, caffeine won't replace protein, but if you're old enough to remember the original Rocky movie you'll know that raw eggs are an old and trusted source of protein. Rather than downing 6 raw eggs, I’d recommend mixing a couple into a milk (more natural protein!) smoothie along with some fruit. The fruit not only makes it taste yum, but the fiber also helps reverse the constipation from the protein powder!

    Oh yeah, the smoothies were great meal replacements and a major aid in dropping weight.

    Support your local food producers, not the multinational, multibillion $$ drug co's.

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