Protein Powder’s Pandemic Rollercoaster

The protein powder category on Amazon only saw decent growth over the past couple of years, despite a significant spike in sales during the early days of the pandemic in Q2 2020.

As a whole, the category grew 25% year over year from 2019 and 2020; however, most of this growth can be attributed to the pandemic spike. In fact, when comparing Q1 2019 to Q1 2020, the category’s revenue actually declined 5%. Additionally, the category saw four consecutive months of revenue decline from September to December 2020.

Chocolate and vanilla were the two best-selling flavors in 2019 and 2020, with a dominating combined market share of 70% in 2020. The chocolate-flavored products slightly underperformed the category with year-over-year growth of 22%, while the vanilla-flavored ones outperformed the category by a relatively larger margin with year-over-year growth of 36%. Unflavored products collectively accounted for 9% of the total revenue in 2020, underperforming the category with a year-over-year growth rate of 18%. Next up came the chocolate peanut butter flavor, taking 3% of market share and outperforming the category. Cookies & cream and strawberry were the other two flavors with market shares above 2%, but both underperformed the category in terms of revenue growth.

The top four best-selling sources of protein powder products remained the same from 2019 to 2020, collectively accounting for 89% of the total revenue in 2020.

Plant blend, ranked as the second best-selling protein source with a market share of 22%, outperformed the category by a comparatively large margin with year-over-year growth of 45%.

Meanwhile, whey and blend (of any protein sources), ranking as the first and the third with market shares of 38% and 15%, both slightly underperformed the category; while whey isolate, the fourth best-selling protein source, slightly outperformed the category with a year-over-year rate of 26%.

In terms of top brands within the category, although no new entrants were among the top 20 in 2020, some brands switched positions.

The top three brands remained the same in 2019 and 2020. In fact, nine brands out of the top 10 managed to stay in the top 10, with MusclePharm dropping from the 7th to the 11th, and Body Fortress rising from the 12th to the eighth best-selling year over year. MusclePharm was the only brand out of the top 20 that saw a decline in revenue compared to the previous year.

Collectively, the top 20 brands took an impressive 73% of market share, and saw 26% growth in 2020 compared to the same period the prior year. A dozen brands out of the top 20 outperformed the category. Optimum Nutrition, the best-selling brand, accounted for nearly one-fourth of the entire category’s revenue in 2020—but it underperformed the category with a year-over-year rate of merely 13%. In contrast, the brands with significant year-over-year growth were KOS (ranked 16th, 97% year over year), Orgain (ranked fourth, 92% year over year) and Body Fortress (ranked eighth, 81% year over year).

The top 20 Amazon standard identification numbers (ASINs) in 2020 experienced 35% year-over-year growth in the aggregate, among which 12 ASINs outperformed the category with year-over-year rates up to 678%. Five new entrants were in the top 20 in 2020, while the first and second best-selling ASINs remained the same in both years with growth rates similar to the category as a whole. None of the five ASINs that dropped out of the top 20 experienced serious “out of stock” or “suppressed buy box” issues in 2020.

Eight chocolate- and six vanilla-flavored ASINs were among the list of top 20. Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein + Superfoods Powder—the ASIN with astounding 678% year-over-year growth—is vanilla-flavored and contains a blend of protein sources. Numerous strawberry-flavored and blend-sourced protein powder products were among the top 20, and they showed massive momentum of growth, with year-over-year rates of up to 111%.

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This article was originally shared in Natural Products Insider’s April 2021 Digital Magazine. Download the complete magazine here.

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