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Fitness lifestyle boom lifts nutritional supplement market

Jason Boken / Khmer Times Share:
A group of women exercising at the Olympic Stadium. KT/Siv Channa

The abundance of fitness centres open across Cambodia, with more popping up each year, is an indicator of how many people have seriously embraced the fitness lifestyle.

A significant number of those gym-devotees are adding fitness supplements to their diets and exercise regimes in the pursuit of even better results, which has fostered a burgeoning market for sports nutrition products in the Kingdom.

A number of factors are at play here. Among these are the surge in interest in living healthily, rapid urbanisation alongside expansion of the preventive healthcare market, escalating healthcare costs, rising interest in organically grown food and a high demand for caffeine- and gluten-free nutritional pills, gels and drinks.

According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, which claims to be the largest market research store in the world with 30,000-plus companies relying on it, the sports nutrition market in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5 percent between now and 2023.

Chounchan Rita is the owner of Home Nutrition, a health supplement store in Phnom Penh, and explained that as people focus on health and fitness, they use supplements in the hope of better results. This has fuelled growth for his three-year-old business.

“My health and fitness nutrition store has gained traction as more fitness centres have opened up. I started the business online but opened a store because we were becoming so busy. Many people care about how they look and along with plenty of exercise, they are using supplements to give them an added boost,” he said.

“We have seen an average annual growth of 25 percent a year as we have become more popular. Our supplements are sourced  from the USA and are imported directly to Phnom Penh. I really do see a growing market for health supplements across Southeast Asia and, specifically, here in Cambodia.”

Supplements sold by Chounchan include protein powders, creatine, amino acids and vitamins. One of the most popular is protein powder, which sells for $50 to $70 per kilogramme.

Although meat and dairy products are natural protein sources, they are often not as convenient or as rich in protein as genuine supplement protein powders The market for supplemental protein powders in the United States is currently worth $4.24 billion. Common varieties include whey, casein and pea proteins. In addition, plant-based proteins are expected to become even more popular over the next several years.

There has been a rise in product launches in the sports nutrition market with fruit snacks high in protein content, sports nutrition bars made with protein, and smoothies and juices fortified with protein joining the mixture of offerings. Critics have remarked that many of these products are also high in sugar.

The rise of protein as a super-nutrient and a growing interest among people towards activity and fitness as a preventive measure in staving off lifestyle-related diseases has added fuel to the growth of the sports nutrition market in Asia-Pacific. Today,it targets not only athletes or bodybuilders but people from all walks of life.

Penn Sovicheat, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry congratulates any growing enterprise in Cambodia including the business of nutrition supplements.

“Consumers cannot believe everything they see on adverts. Sometimes these products advertise weight loss or muscle gain and this doesn’t work for everyone. To protect consumers, we require clear labels of information to show ingredients etc,” he said.

To protect consumer rights, we advise shoppers to only buy these products from trusted sources, [ones] with a recognised brand name and sufficient information on their composition and ingredients and with proof of their effectiveness by trusted references,” Penn said.

However, the safety of these products and whether they work cannot  be guaranteed. Many US products must be labelled “Not authorised by the Food and Drug Administration” or with similar caveats that buyers should be wary of.

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