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Health Club Management

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Nutrition: How are operators responding to new in-gym nutrition opportunities?

Today’s fitness consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before, often demanding nutritional offerings that are personalised to their health goals. Laura Swain from innovation research company Stylus, examines how in-gym nutrition is responding to this need

By Laura Swain, Stylus | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 1
Sales of the currently on-trend health foods 
avocados, grew by £41m in 2016
Sales of the currently on-trend health foods avocados, grew by £41m in 2016
Sales of the currently on-trend health foods avocados, almond milk and coconut water grew by £41m, £15m and £11m, respectively, in 2016

The one-size-fits-all approach to ‘healthy’ eating has had its day. Indeed, health and fitness has become a major lifestyle focus for consumers, with many now taking their diet and nutrition very seriously. The result of this shift in thinking is that only solutions that offer wholesomeness and balance will do, and the latest figures appear to support this.

Specifically, the Global Wellness Institute values the global healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss sectors at US$648bn, and latest figures from market research provider, IRI, show that sales of the currently on-trend health foods avocados, almond milk and coconut water grew by £41m, £15m and £11m, respectively, in 2016.

As time-poor consumers search for the right balance in work, life and wellbeing, the growing need for better support systems, particularly around food consumption, is becoming increasingly apparent. This demand for nutritional solutions, which can be delivered in a timely manner, is spurring a global wave of new product development, and represents a huge up-selling opportunity for the health and fitness industry.

Having already secured the trust of their customers from a physical perspective, fitness providers are well placed to act as advisors on nutrition. Gym-goers often view diet and nutrition as a natural extension of their fitness habits and goals, and as such, the key up-sell opportunity lies in on-site food offerings.

On-the-go snacking is a trend that has been adopted by brands, with increasing numbers looking at launching healthier options for active consumers. One area where this has taken off is dairy.

Traditional dairy has been making a comeback for some time thanks to convincing health propositions, inventive product development and innovative ingredients. Both Arla and Nesquik, for example, have launched added protein products to their portfolios, which now feature protein-rich yoghurts, shakes and milk-based beverages. Currently stocked in many UK supermarkets, these products have been created with convenience in mind, offering transportable, on-the-go, portion-controlled solutions that can be consumed pre- or post-workout.

FUEL 10K, a protein-boosted breakfast brand, has created something similar with its Quark and Fruit pouches that focus on active consumers who take a snack-like approach to meals.

The development of such products responds to a need for food solutions that bridge the gap between meal times while offering added nutritional benefits. Such products would fit seamlessly within health club cafés or fridges, and there’s scope to extend this further.

Consumers are feeling the pressure – due to a lack of time and knowledge – when it comes to cooking balanced evening and lunchtime meals. This nods to a need for health clubs and fitness centres to offer a breadth of mealtime solutions, such as ready meals or meal kits that could be bought on-site.

One company working to meet this need is Musclefood. While this meat and protein delivery company is best known for delivering its products to the homes of consumers, it reports that it now stocks its frozen and ambient-temperature protein-rich foods in more than 200 gyms across the UK. Protein pizzas, chicken and rice pots, protein pancakes and steam cooked chicken are among the fitness-focused products on offer. Gym-goers can buy the food on-site and cook it at home or, in some cases, the food can be cooked on-site for consumers to take home.

While the provision of ready meals that can be either heated on-site or taken away to heat at home are one option for gym-goers, there’s also potential for health clubs to act as a place where people can order or collect meal kits. The Prep Kitchen in Glasgow, for instance, delivers prepped nutritious meals to gyms for pre- and post-workout replenishment. A number of food-delivery services are building sports nutrition into their menus, while the meal-kit business model has also stretched into the sports nutrition space.

Other examples of meal-kit delivery services include Prepp'd, which is aimed at individuals with specific fitness goals who still want to feel as though they're indulging. Menu bundles are arranged into ‘fat loss’ and ‘muscle gain’ categories, and range from offering just one meal per day through to providing all meals and snacks for an entire week.

In the US, famed NFL star Tom Brady has teamed up with fresh ingredients delivery company Purple Carrot to launch a pre-prepped meal-delivery service aimed at sports enthusiasts and aspiring athletes. Based on his own strict plant-based diet, the three meals provided by the service each week include crispy turnip cakes with tabbouleh, white lentil risotto with roasted vegetables, and ramen with gingered greens and broccolini.

On-site dining is becoming a bigger opportunity too, through the integration of nutrition-focused restaurants serving dishes and drinks aimed at time-poor, active and nutritionally aware consumers. First movers include Raw Fitness, in Beijing, which offers both a Crossfit gym and an affordable post-workout on-site restaurant called Glo Kitchen. Active members have access to meals like kimchi bone-broth bowls and activated charcoal Thai chicken wraps.

Private members health club KX in Chelsea, London, has a gym, spa and restaurant that offers a selection of healthy foods, created by its head chef in collaboration with its team of resident experts including personal trainers and a nutritionist. The meals can be eaten on-site, taken away or delivered, fitting around its customers’ schedules.

Attitudes towards food and healthy eating are shifting. Consumers are acknowledging the connection between food, mood, fitness and energy, but they require guidance and solutions to help them achieve balance as they strive to meet the demands of everyday life.

This means that there’s a real opportunity for health clubs and gyms to become one-stop-shops for health and fitness. On-the-go and mealtime solutions are two areas of secondary spend to be explored. For those with the capacity to extend their on-site dining offering, this is a great way to further integrate your brand into your customers’ daily lives, offering a more holistic solution to healthy living.


Parkwood Leisure and Musclefood

Stuart Shopland, Parkwood Leisure
Stuart Shopland, Parkwood Leisure

Leisure management company Parkwood Leisure has been quick to explore the opportunities that selling more nutritionally balanced meals-to-go in a fitness centre can offer – both in terms of boosting customer experience and secondary spend.

Partnering with meal delivery company Musclefood in late 2017, Parkwood Leisure has placed free-standing upright freezers stocked with ready-to-heat meals designed with gym-goers in mind – such as protein pizzas, chicken and rice pots and steamed chicken – around the reception areas of six of the 85 UK leisure facilities it manages.

Stuart Shopland, National Retail Manager for Parkwood Leisure said: “We often explore new types of products that have the potential to work well with our different customer bases, and this really fits that bill. The meals are convenience products that are healthy and complement the lifestyle of a large proportion of gym users, so we decided to trial the concept in a few of our centres.”

“We’re currently seeing varying levels of success,” he added. “We’ve got a couple of leisure centres where it is extremely popular, and some that are doing a little less well. As expected, this varies with demographic and the exact location of the freezer in the centre. That’s why we’re looking at this as a trial, as it allows us to tweak how we execute the idea according to customer feedback.”

“We're exploring new F&B products that have the potential to work well with our different customer bases" - Stuart Shopland, Parkwood Leisure

Ready-to-heat meals give gym-goers a healthy option
Ready-to-heat meals give gym-goers a healthy option


Laura Swain
Laura Swain

Laura Swain is assistant editor at innovation research company Stylus, tracking everything from global health food trends to hotel and hospitality innovations.

Gym-goers are paying more attention to eating in a way that supports their health and fitness goals / PHOTO:  SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Gym-goers are paying more attention to eating in a way that supports their health and fitness goals / PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Exercisers desire convenient ways to fit healthy eating into their lives / PHOTO:  SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Exercisers desire convenient ways to fit healthy eating into their lives / PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Gym goers are increasingly seeking nutritional offerings to assist their fitness goals. Laura Swain from innovation research company Stylus explains how operators can tap into this growth area.
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