As COVID cases rise across much of the US, many gyms are left in limbo. This past week in Michigan, an eleventh-hour court ruling barred gyms from reopening mere hours before they were slated to do so. Today in Texas, Gov. Abbott abruptly reversed the continued reopening of bars and restaurants, prompting fears that the state’s gyms could face a similar fate.
And once a gym reopens, will its customers return? Last month, a startling poll of over 10,000 gym-goers by Run Repeat revealed that over 50% of Americans did not plan to return to their gyms upon reopening. Beyond gyms, COVID-19 continues to alter the American fitness landscape in a myriad of ways. Many school districts and colleges across the country have already cancelled upcoming fall sports. This week, the New York City marathon, an event with 50,000 hard-training participants, was cancelled. And, the culture shift to working from home is coupled with a shift to exercising from home, too. All of these changes affect how and when Americans will buy and consume protein powder.
Many Americans — from high school athletes, to ordinary gym members, to marathon trainees — have been left without the coaches, fitness instructors or important events that would normally provide a clear path of athletic nutrition. All in all, this signals that a less structured, more self-driven landscape of fitness nutrition may be the new normal. And, while athletic competitions will likely return by 2021, early signs suggest pre-COVID fitness habits may not.
How will this paradigm shift affect protein powder sales? According to a study on protein supplement consumption, nearly 40% of users rely on gym instructors for information on protein supplements. In a world where less consumers interact with gym instructors, it will be important for protein brands to increase their visibility and marketing in other channels.
Companies should seek partnerships with home fitness brands and virtual work-out instructors. Companies should take control of their online image, so that online shoppers discover and choose their brand. And as e-commerce becomes ever more important to a protein powder’s sustained success, brands should take a data-driven approach to monitoring performance in this rapidly changing landscape.
While the pandemic undoubtedly brings struggles and abrupt changes to the protein powder brands, it also brings opportunity. In a Harrison Co. survey, 37% of respondents indicated that they will work out more often than they did before the pandemic, with over 50% citing an increased appreciation for their health and well-being as their motivator. With a swift transition to a digital world and informative analytics, protein powder brands can emerge from COVID-19 stronger than ever.