The Sports Nutrition Congress looked at the opportunities in sports and active nutrition, offering insights into consumer understanding and marketing to millennials – including looking at the power of social media to connect to consumers in our ever digitaliswed world.

On the agenda in 2018 were engaging sessions on modulating the microbiome for sports, a look at new science and nutritional ingredients for endurance, performance and recovery, a look at the growing importance of personalisation and how the growth of digital health and wearable devices is shaping the industry, in addition to top insights on elite level nutrition for world champions in both individual and team sports. Take a look at the day-by-day agenda .

Day 1 – Tuesday 25th September

08.30 – Registration

09.00 – Welcome from NutraIngredients
Nathan Gray, Seniro Editor, NutraIngredients
Introducing congress co-chair
Dr Adam Carey, Chair, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA)

09.05 – What race are we running and are we going to win? How the global sports nutrition market is taking shape
Pia Ostermann, Beauty and Fashion Analyst, Euromonitor International

Sports nutrition is now firmly established as the fastest growing category within the global consumer health market, as athletes and non-athletes alike come to believe that its products can help meet their broader healthy living goals. This presentation looks at how the sports nutrition consumer is evolving and examines how successful the industry has been so far in targeting a wider universe of casual, non-athletic users.  In her state-of-the-nation address, Pia looks at how far sports nutrition has come and just how long a race it can run.  She’ll evaluate progress to date and identify the world-wide hot spots where market growth is fastest and most promising.

  • How far, how fast? Current rates of growth and how they’re expected to accelerate
  • High performers and promising new entrants – revealing the markets that offer the biggest growth opportunities
  • From peak performance to general health – how to win the non-athlete market without compromising the hard core sports addict
  • Flavour innovation – is this the key that will unlock the general market?

09.30 – How strangers shape a market.  Online customer reviews and their impact in sports nutrition
Tom Morgan, Market Analyst – Sports Nutrition, Lumina Intelligence

As consumers wade through a buffet of options when they purchase online, peer reviews act as compass for their buying intent. With sports nutrition products proliferating at a staggering rate it’s getting harder to get your brand noticed, to see where to head, and to find the key points of difference that capture customer attention. We’ve analysed granular data from reviews, from ingredients and the science behind them to build, from the bottom up, a picture of the sports nutrition world and how its customers buy.  Tom’s presentation describes the market, its customers and what drives their engagement and, vitally, what makes them leave a positive review.

  • The flavour of countries – which markets stand out strongest?
  • Ingredients and the growth of plant power – how plant proteins and botanicals are starting to take root
  • What a boost – newly emerging nitric oxide and pre-work out markets
  • Targeting matters – how a softer approach will stretch the market beyond its body builder heartland
  • Creating conversation – how to encourage, reward and use positive customer reviews

10.00 – State of the market: Key highlights from the NutraIngredients Sports Nutrition Survey
Nathan Gray, Senior Editor, NutraIngredients

While the sports nutrition market appears to be booming, it is important to keep reality in check. The first ever NutraIngredients sports nutrition asked the industry how market forces, regulations, and innovation are impacting the category.
From mutual recognition to Brexit and NPD trends, hundreds of industry professionals shared anonymised opinions on the state of sports nutrition. This session will provide the first data from our findings, providing insights into key trends, market sentiment, and future opportunities.

10.30 – Refreshments and networking

11.00 – When tough guys get hurt.  The strategic and practical role of nutrition for recovery from injury in professional rugby
Daniel Davey, Senior Performance Nutritionist, Dublin Senior Football and Leinster Rugby

Professional rugby, perhaps the most physically demanding of any contact sport, needs its players to be strong, powerful and resilient.  Nevertheless, injuries, often of long duration, are common.  When they occur, coaches and managers want players back in shape fast.  Nutrition has become a critical element of recovery protocols designed to accelerate recovery. However, getting the best result means understanding the exact nature of the injury and developing the best nutritional strategy to support an elite athlete.  Based on his work with some of the game’s toughest players, Daniel explains the science behind the sports injury.

  • That hurts – common injuries in rugby, phases of treatment and typical recovery times
  • Getting better – developing nutritional strategies and helping players adapt
  • These work – proven supplements for specific sports injuries
  • Make me better – why tough players make tough patients and how they can be helped

11.30 – The beautiful game made better. How Ubiquinol improves the performance of elite footballers
Dr Guillermo López-Lluch, Associate Professor, Pablo of Olavide University, Spain

A two-year study has shown that Ubiquinol, an electron rich form of the coenzyme Q10, can help players perform better and manage physical stress at the highest levels of football. Elite players from Spain’s Athletico de Bilbao took the supplement over two playing seasons and were shown to have higher levels of total CoQ10 in plasma as well as lower levels of creatine kinase and cortisol, even in the middle of the season when competition pressure was at its highest. These players were able to run further and maintain higher mean speeds during football matches. Guillermo reveals the study’s full results and demonstrates that higher levels of CoQ10 in plasma can prevent muscle damage and improve physical performance among football’s elite players.

  • The study in action – how supplementation over two playing seasons delivered certainty of results
  • Capacity and endurance – how Ubiquinol increases physical capacity and reduces muscle damage
  • Managing physical stress – low levels of cortisol in plasma help athletes manage stress
  • Implications for other athletes

12.00 – Elite Sports Debate: Pushing nutritional boundaries

What does it take to be the best of the best – and how can nutrition help? From team sports like football (soccer) and rugby to Olympic events, these group of sessions will look to learnings from experts working with some of the best in the world, providing insights on the unique demands that elite sports provides – asking how the industry can better cater to these needs and whether manufacturers can target both the mass market and elite sports simultaneously.

Panellists include:
Daniel Davey, Senior Performance Nutritionist, Dublin Senior Football and Leinster Rugbylop
Professor Kieran Clarke, Professor of Physiological Biochemistry, University of Oxford


12.30 – Speed Networking and an opportunity to meet our sponsors
Grow your network with a series of four-minute meetings with your fellow attendees. Introduce yourself to a new contact every time you hear the signal and find out if you’ve got mutual interests that would make a subsequent, more in-depth meeting worthwhile.

13.15 – Roundtable lunch – discuss the issues that matter most to you
Tables will be hosted by an expert from industry or academia who will lead an informal discussion on an industry hot topic. Join the table that suits you best, subject to availability.

14.15 – Dessert and coffee

14.45 – Mutual recognition for mutual benefit – how the European Commission plans to ease the way for intra-Europe trade in sports nutrition products
Andreea Pantazi, Legal Officer, European Commission

The Single Market is one of the EU’s greatest achievements, enabling tariff free trade among Member States. The mutual recognition principle is key to its smooth operation, since it allows products – including sports foods and supplements – that are lawfully sold in one Member State but not covered by harmonised rules, to be marketed in others, even if those products don’t comply with national technical rules. That’s fine in principle, but in practice sports nutrition businesses still encounter frustrating and confusing technical barriers when trying to sell across Europe. Andreea explains why mutual recognition succeeds and fails and reveals what the Commission is doing today to make things better.

  • Mutual recognition vs harmonised rules – why 20% of goods traded in Europe depend on the principle
  • What’s the problem? Tests, delays and extra costs – why doesn’t the principle take them away?
  • Proposed changes to regulation – how the Commission is moving to make the mutual recognition principle faster, simpler and clearer
  • Bedding in change – training, guidelines and communication, how the Commission will help businesses like yours to get the benefits of mutual recognition

15.15 – Regulatory Debate: Mutual Recognition

These sessions will explore issues of regulation and compliance in the supply chain and how issues of mutual recognition in Europe are impacting the industry. Exploring how international online sales platforms are changing the game in both areas, the sessions will focus on how retailers and manufacturers are managing supply chain challenges, and the barriers for sports nutrition companies looking to sell in other European countries, and what can be done to overcome these barriers.

Panellists include:
Andreea Pantazi, Legal Officer, European Commission
Claudia Mucciardi, Vice-Chair, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA)
Katia Merten-Lentz, Partner, Keller and Heckman

15.45 – Whose helping with health claims?   The vexed relationship between EFSA, the EC and industry
Katia Merten-Lentz, Partner, Keller and Heckman

Sports-oriented consumers are more demanding than most when it comes to the clarity and reliability of the health claims made for the products they buy – which means it’s in the industry’s interests to be rigorous.  The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been accused by many of taking a hard stance on health claim authorisation, yet it claims to be merely following the lead of EU regulators, who demand the highest standards of scientific assessment. Whose really there to help industry?  Katia’s presentation assesses the relationship between EFSA, the EU and sports food manufacturers and considers whether there needs to be a specific regulatory framework for sports food or whether general EU food law will suffice.

  • What we want – how will the EU respond to the industry’s demand for a sports related regulatory framework?
  • Recognising benefits – will EFSA’s confirmation of the health benefits of glycaemic carbohydrates encourage an adaptation of the current regulatory framework?
  • Stalling innovation – as the number of health claim approvals decreases, might companies cancel investments in health related R&D?
  • Fat, sugar and salt – will consumer opinion, voiced by NGOs, drive the European Commission to take action
  • Working effectively – how can EFSA help organisations work with and influence EU policy makers?

16.15 – Refreshments and networking

16.45 – TRAILBLAZERS SESSION: Innovation & Investment Debate

Innovations and start-up companies come in many shapes and forms. In this session we will meet a selection of entrepreneurial start-ups presenting their innovations and mould-breaking approaches to the sports and active nutrition market. Together with expert innovators and investors our Trailblazers will discuss the consumer trends and technologies they are tapping into and shine a spotlight on some of the opportunities (and pitfalls) that are out there.

Chair: Nikki Cutler, Section Editor, NutraIngredients
Panellists include:
João Gonçalo Cunha, Co-founder & CEO, KickUp Sports Accelerator
Alex Zurita, Specialist Adviser, London Sport (Sport Tech Hub)

Tom Evans, Product Manager, SCI-MX Nutrition

Meet our Trailblazers

Isaac Nutrition

18.00 – Chairman’s closing remarks

18.15 – Evening networking reception

Day 2 – Wednesday 26th September


9.15 – Chairman’s re-cap of Day 1 and welcome back

09.30 – The cost of non-compliance – why everyone loses when companies miss the mark
Luca Bucchini, Vice-Chair, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA)

The EU imposes strict rule to ensure consumers can confidently access safe, high quality sports nutrition products. Companies that inadvertently bring non-compliant products to market – either because they don’t know or fail to understand the regulation – court reputational damage and even business failure. Others may suffer too. Consumer safety could be compromised and the competitiveness of compliant companies damaged, as confidence, among consumer and policy makers alike, is compromised.  Luca’s presentation reveals the startling extent of non-compliance and challenges the industry at large to tackle it.

  • How serious is it? The extent of non-compliance and the industry-wide threat it poses
  • What’s the score? How a high-growth industry can be stalled by non-compliance
  • Whose problem is it? Why the industry has to take action – and how
  • The direction of travel. How regulation is evolving – and how to keep pace

10.00 – Policing the internet: How the European Commission is monitoring non-compliance for online food sales
Filippo Abruzzo, Policy Coordinator, European Commission

New EU regulation is now coming into force to improve control over the importation of animals, food and food supplements into the European Union. It will have serious implications for any business selling sports nutrition productions online across national borders. Filippo explains what the regulation aims to achieve, how it will be enforced and the rigorous approach the European Commission is taking to policing compliance in the e-commerce environment.

  • New regulation, new modes of enforcement – the European Commission takes action in e-commerce
  • Industry collaboration – how the Commission is working with leading e-commerce platforms and payment services to create safe environment
  • Rigorous preparation – the training programmes that are ensuring member state authorities are trained and ready to monitor online trade

10.30 – Refreshments and networking

11.00 – Panel Debate: Image issues – What can be done to clean up the image of sports nutrition

These sessions will look in detail at key issues impacting the wider perception of the category, addressing issues of non-compliance, false advertising, doping and spiking. With doping, spiking, and other non-compliance issues consistently in the headlines, and sports nutrition regularly bearing the brunt of ‘blame’ for athlete bans, this session asks how big the problem really is, and what can be done about it. From better engagement and education, to improved compliance and certification, how can the sports nutrition reputation be improved by stamping out rogue players intent on poor practices including adulteration, spiking and false advertising.

Panellists include:
John Brewer, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Applied Sports Science, St Mary’s University, London
John Travis, Senior Research Scientist, NSF International

Luca Bucchini, Vice-Chair, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA)
Professor Irini Margaritis, Head of Nutritional Risk Assessment Unit, French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Anses)

11.45 – Brexit is coming. Opportunities, threats, likely scenarios and options for engagement
Viviana Spaghetti, Associate Director, The Whitehouse Consulting

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU is one of the biggest uncertainties facing sports nutrition businesses today. At the end of a frenetic summer of negotiation between the EU and the UK government, public affairs specialist Viviana Spaghetti offers up-to-the-minute insights on progress towards D(eparture) Day, 29 March 2019. What will be the terms of the UK withdrawal from the EU? What will the future trade agreement between the UK and the EU – and with third countries – look like? What will be the impact of Britain’s departure on the movement of labour and goods?  This presentation eschews the daily Brexit froth served up by the media to give a balanced assessment of progress towards a new Europe and how businesses will operate within it.

  • On track or off the rails. How likely is it that the EU and UK will conclude a trade deal that avoids tariffs and bureaucracy at borders?
  • Common standards or open season. Will food safety standards, labelling provisions and rules on nutrition and health claims come closer or diverge?
  • Surviving or thriving. Are there opportunities as well as risks and how can you grasp them?
  • Part of the solution.  How can sports nutrition businesses engage to influence this process and the rules in a new market and policy environment?

12.15 – The diet, exercise and gut microbiome paradigm
Dr Orla O’Sullivan, Senior Computational Biologist, Teagasc Food Research Centre and APC Microbiome, Ireland

It has long been known that the human body is host to myriad of microbes that impact various aspects of health. Research by the APC Microbiome Institute and Teagasc reveals significant differences in the gut microbiome of elite athletes and the non-athletic population, which suggest that the microbiome is a major player in the relationship between exercise and health. Orla’s review of the research findings will examine the relationship between the microbiome, exercise and good health, and what it means for an industry that’s striving to develop nutritional products that will enhance athletic performance.

  • What we can learn from rugby players – what is driving their microbial diversity?
  • What about the rest of us?  How the average microbiome compares to that of the elite athlete and can we train our microbiome.
  • Implications for industry – developing products that impact athletic gut health


12.45 – Networking lunch

13.45 – Elevating elite performance without drugs – personalisation and the digital revolution in sport
Yannis P Pitsiladis, Professor of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Brighton

There is a widespread belief among those involved in elite sport that peak performance can only be achieved by using prohibited substances and methods. Yannis maintains the only way to counter this belief is to demonstrate alternative ways, through sports science and medicine, to elevate performance without breaking the rules. The way forward, he suggests, is to use predictive diagnostics, digital technologies and data analytics to create personalised training, nutrition and preparation regimes that allow individual athletes to raise their game to the ultimate. Here he gives an overview of what could be achieved and how technological advances could benefit athletes and audiences alike.

  • Adopting AI – from machine learning to deep learning, how data unlocks performance
  • A basis for decisions – how athletes, coaches, physicians and sports scientists can use data to achieve the ultimate
  • Intelligent anti-doping – one happy side effect of a data driven approach
  • Audience participation – increasing entertainment value by transmitting real time performance data during athletic broadcasts
  • Overcoming objections – what tech companies must do to rebuild the credibility of wearable devices and diagnostic techniques

14.15- Panel Debate: Personalisation and the digital revolution

Big data, wearable technology, personalised analysis, and the digital shopping revolution are all providing huge opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs looking to innovate in the sports and active nutrition area. From the use of personalised analysis in elite level sports to the use of wearable devices and app-based health trackers to provide better dietary recommendations, and a consumer desire to get ‘for me’ products delivered to their door, this session will look at some of the key trends and innovations in the digital and personalised space. Our panel of experts will discuss the recent technology explosion to identify what’s capturing and holding consumer interest most powerfully and discuss what the industry’s reaction should be – how businesses should engage with this revolution, and how it will impact the products they sell.

Panellists include:
Prof Yannis Pitsiladis, Professor of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Brighton
Mark Gilbert, Vice-Chair, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA)

14.45 – Closing remarks and look to the future

15.00 – Departures