Outdoor Retail Gear Trends: 2016 nutrition

Consumer taste buds prefer ingredients their mouths can pronounce. See what's ahead for retail shelves in 2016.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8

In a category that’s perhaps been a little stale of late, nutrition companies are expanding their offerings to account for a wider scope of active consumers.

While products like Gu’s gels and other chews and drinks are targeted at high-intensity and long-duration activities, the company’s Vice President of Marketing Adam Chamberlain points out that those two activities are just a part of the styles of activity people are now doing. The rise of the ultra running community and the increased popularity of more social fun runs is diverging the paths for nutrition companies.

Gu launches its first-ever bar, the Gu Energy Stick (MSRP $2.25), aimed at athletes going longer and farther. Other new products, for instance the 15-serving bulk containers for Gu Energy Gel (MSRP $15) and Gu Roctane Energy Gel (MSRP $25), are also geared toward that consumer group. The 15-serving package of gels features a screw top with five flavors, including vanilla bean, salted caramel, strawberry banana, blueberry pomegranate and sea salt chocolate.


Nuun adds bulk to its product lineup, with a 12-tablet package (MSRPs $6.50-$6.99). The company is also debuting its first-ever modularity system, Plus (MSRP $6.99), that is to be mixed in with Nuun to add carbohydrates to better fuel training exercises and runs. Skratch Labs is showing its Fruit Drops (MSRP $2.45), an energy chew with a real fruit flavor and a higher moisture content akin to a sports drink but with higher electrolyte content.

Brands looking to reach those outside of the serious athlete consumer group are looking at the importance of taste, the increase of flavor options, and the healthiness and naturalness of their products. This trend addresses both athletes concerned with nutrition programs as well as other consumer groups. For instance, Honey Stinger introduced the Caramel Waffle (MSRP $1.39) earlier this spring, and also added a grapefruit-flavored chew.

Both Backpacker’s Pantry and Skratch Labs have been working to recreate a fine dining experience in the outdoors — or at least a more palatable one. Backpacker’s Pantry has worked to increase protein amounts in its foods through the addition of meals that include garbanzo beans, quinoa, hardboiled eggs and salmon.The company is also featuring a new beans and rice meal, Charros; a Chicken Focaccia meal; and a multigrain buttermilk pancake mix made with whole wheat, quinoa flakes, hemp seed and extra egg white.


Skratch Labs launched Cookie Mix (MSRP $8.50) earlier this year, which just requires the addition of a stick of butter to make cookies or cookie bars. Eat it as a “real food” replacement for a pre-packaged energy bar, and be confident that it has fewer ingredients and no heavily processed ingredients. Skratch Labs also brings a wrapping paper called Skratch Paper (MSRP $11.50) that can wrap up the very food items it’s encouraging its consumers to start whipping up in the kitchen (or backcountry).

In the opinion of Jay Peery, vice president of sales at Skratch Labs, “realer food” is where the market is moving — and in more ways than just the increased prevalence of GMO-free, gluten-free, vegan and organic. “I think ultimately, some big companies that have been very dominant have been selling the same products, more or less, for a long time now. Most just do entirely gels, bars and blocks, but those products just aren’t very palatable in terms of flavor and moisture in my opinion. People are kind of realizing that they don’t have to take a prepackaged size and just take it with them.”

So while the more serious athletes are still clamoring for the same types of products for nutrition programs — except in different quantities or styles to accomodate the changing trends in activities, rigor and distances — for others, nutrition products are focusing more on health and taste. The reason? As Michele Leifer, executive director of sales and marketing at Backpacker’s Pantry put it, people are starting to realize, “you don’t have to suffer just because you’re camping.”

–Becca Stanek