LONDON, United Kingdom — A new player has entered the crowded field of personalised sports nutrition in the UK, attempting to leverage the Premier League brand of Chelsea Football Club to disrupt a global market recently valued at $15.6 billion.
Blue Fuel, a range of sports supplements, recipes and meal plans that have been developed by Chelsea’s expert nutritionists and tested on the men’s, women’s and academy teams, launched in the UK on 1st July.
Delivered via the Blue Fuel app, it’s the result of what is expected to be a series of commercial spin-outs from Chelsea Digital Ventures, a digital-first, consumer product business launched by Chelsea FC in 2018.
David Rose, the director of Chelsea Digital Ventures, told Welltodo that Blue Fuel has been designed to fill a gap in the nutrition market for amateur sports players.
“We believe the amateur sports player is underserved, lacking a quality nutrition service, personalised for the individual, regardless of the sport they play,” said Rose.
“For many people, there is a lack of knowledge or more confusingly, too much competing and misleading advice. We aim to simplify that and offer a professional-grade service that happens to taste great.”
The timing of the launch is a curious one. As of early July, recreational sport was still heavily limited under lockdown in the UK and supermarket sales of sports nutrition products have nosedived since March, with Brits forced to change the way they exercise.
According to research data from Kantar, the category’s value fell by 23.3% in the 12 weeks to 17th May 2020. Bars and ready to drink (RTD) products took the biggest hits, falling by 29.4% and 29% respectively, The Grocer recently reported.
While supermarket sales have been under strain, brands offering direct to consumer (DTC) products have reported an uplift. Protein brand Grenade has reported having trebled its online sales since lockdown began, while plant-based protein brand Form Nutrition said it has experienced constant gains from March to May, with May sales up 81% on the previous year.
A recent survey carried out by Form found 18% of consumers had used more protein supplements after lockdown than they did before, while 27% had used more of other supplements, vitamins and nutrients.
Meanwhile, in February, Lucozade – one of the leading energy drinks brands, which was sold by GlaxoSmithKline to the Japanese conglomerate Suntory in 2013, launched a “naturally-inspired” Revive drink, taking on the natural energy brands.
A personalised approach to sports nutrition
Despite these precarious times, the minds behind Blue Fuel believe now is the right time to enter the market. “Blue Fuel is launching at the optimum time to help athletes across the UK prepare for when their sport fully gets back into action,” read a statement with the release.
Blue Fuel product owner Emma Barraclough believes the range will appeal to consumers who are taking a more personalised approach to their nutrition.
“The larger macro trends of personalisation within food is a great opportunity for the sports nutrition sector, where you have committed consumers highly motivated to make choices to support their performance and overall lifestyle goals.”
Barraclough also pointed to how the sports nutrition category has broadened in recent years as the benefits of protein and its widespread application in consumer products have gone mainstream.
“A healthy lifestyle, as opposed to sports nutrition per se, has spiked interest in the category from a much broader range of consumers,” she said. “Protein, in particular, has led this trend, with protein bars now more closely resembling confectionary in taste, mouthfeel and even availability.”
While Barraclough believes Blue Fuel is uniquely positioned to exploit this gap in the sports nutrition market, this lack of competition could also be its greatest challenge.
“Blue Fuel is uniquely positioned as a sports nutrition service with a physical product range and an app to provide wider nutritional support,” she said. “Our greatest challenge is being able to widely demonstrate what our product has to offer, as there is no direct competitor that is known in the market.”
Before coronavirus took hold, a report by Grand View Research, published in February, predicted that the global sports nutrition market would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.9% from 2019 to 2027 to reach USD 31.0 billion in 2027.