Gym trends: how to entice new users and inspire current subscribers

The fitness industry is booming and is set to reach important milestones in the UK, including the number of gyms topping 7,000, memberships exceeding 10 million, and the market value coming to £5 billion.

We ran a demographic steer asking just under eight thousand people how often they visit the gym. The results we obtained showed almost half of our consumer community visit the gym, be it daily, weekly or monthly:

Looking into the results from another steer, which segmented gym goers into members of a particular gym, including an option for those who did not attend a large chain, it showed that 65% of people were not members of any gym. The difference of around 11 percentage points might stem from the group of people not taking out a membership but instead paying per visit, which could work out cheaper than a membership for some.

Considering the large percentage of people not using a gym membership, we attempted to determine the reason for this. We selected five popular arguments against and ran a multi-answer steer, including a ‘none of the above’ option:

The second most influential argument against gym membership was unwillingness to enter a long-term contract. A pay-as-you-go system would be more cost effective for the respondents giving this answer, who are usually infrequent gym goers. As for the supposedly more frequent gym goers, who have a particular reason for exercising, such as strength and conditioning, body confidence, weight loss, etc., we attempted to obtain information on most preferred activities by a multi-answer steer:

Three of the most popular activities at a gym from the users we tested came back as cardio, classes and weights. This justifies the rapid rise of gyms offering a simple service of a fully equipped gym, providing classes with a cheap membership. This sought-after concept has boosted the rapid expansion of PureGym, which reached one million members in 2018. From the other hand, swimming is also one of the top reasons behind going to the gym, which justifies the market for leisure centres as opposed to gyms. It was interesting to establish what proportion of gym goers attend classes:

Classes are proving popular with more than 35% of gym goers attending them at least once a week. Providing a range of classes to suit various needs is an important way to attract new customers and keep existing members interested in retaining their membership.

As a way of attracting people to join a gym, a variety of classes could be offered ranging from yoga to boxing. New types of classes are constantly added, moving away from traditional options. We ran a preference steer, asking 506 gym goers to choose their favourite less traditional classes. The most popular exclusive preference was hot yoga which has increased in popularity with people becoming more aware of the negative effects of being seated in the same position for long periods.

The close second result of cold room body pump, with reported benefits of reduced muscle soreness and inflammation, showed the willingness of potential users of fitness classes being up to try relatively unknown classes as a way to stay motivated.

Hot yoga and cold room body pump have the highest potential to attract gym goers, especially the youngest. The two options were highlighted as both exclusive preferences, where consumers chose the same option every time it was offered (shown on the left) and overall preferences (on the right-hand side).

The fitness market is still growing on top of the already huge growth accomplished in the past decade triggered by the quest for a healthier lifestyle. Using the Vypr app can provide guidance to what gyms can offer to potential customers to satisfy the large variety of preferences. It can help gauge potential success of new ideas by measuring people’s responses to a set of industry-specific questions.

Feed: measuring the evolution in meal replacement drinks

Veganism has grown in popularity in the last few years reaching 2% of the UK population in 2018. However, this is not the main factor determining market growth in meat-free products. 22% of Vypr’s consumer community currently consists of self-described meat-reducers, i.e. people making a conscious effort to reduce their meat consumption. An increasing number of new launches in meat substitutes and plant-based food aims to satisfy this demand.

Feed, an all vegan meal substitute brand, has launched a range of on-the-go drinks, marketed as complete meals, with ready-to-drink and just-add-water options. The latter has been included in a trial run aimed at millennials, in which 69 Sainsbury’s stores are presenting edgy new products such as salmon skin crisps and alcoholic kombucha.

Feed’s meal replacement drink targets on-the-go, active consumers and is “neither a dietary nor an energising product”. According to marketing literature, it is a vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, and GM-free alternative of a regular meal, developed with chefs and nutritionists. We asked a subset of our consumer community, comprising vegans, vegetarians and meat reducers, whether they would buy this product.

A little under 54% of these consumers answered positively but what stood out from the data is that the ratio increased to over 66% when looking at just male respondents. Below is the result from a steer, asking 240 male vegetarian, vegan and meat reducer consumers whether they would buy the drink:

This result provides an interesting insight into the target market with ramifications for the way the product could be branded more effectively. Along with tailoring the product towards the targeted gender we found flavour preferences important, especially as the brand highlights indulgence as a key attribute of its products. Using a multi-answer steer, we tested consumers’ propensity to buy towards the existing flavours in the just-add-water range, being particularly interested to see how sweet and savoury options compare:

Clearly the sweet options are seen as more attractive in the UK market despite the originality of the savoury options, which are reminiscent of soups. Savoury meal flavours could benefit the positioning of a meal replacement product as a lunch option, however, this seems unlikely to be successful in the UK. Despite this we attempted to gain insight on the most likely meal occasion. For the purpose we asked 505 meat reducer, vegetarian and vegan consumers, whether they would have the drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, allowing them to select more than one option:

The results came back in favour for lunch as the most popular occasion to consume the meal replacement drink. In view of this finding, the savoury options may have potential despite their low score in the flavour test. Perhaps the product’s branding and packaging need to stress its gourmet credentials, especially when it comes to the savoury options.

Understanding consumer sentiment on all the variables of your product is vital to creating a compelling offering. Vypr can isolate the factors which help move the needle, optimising each aspect and getting you to better products, faster.

Protein bars: what do consumers want?

Consumers’ quest for the benefits of a healthy diet has opened the door for health and fitness brands to gain market presence. Sales of take-home snack bars were up 7.1% in 2018 with the volume of bars sold up 3% as cited by the Grocer earlier this year.

Health consciousness has meant more people are buying snacks such as protein bars as a way of eating less sugar and fat but also getting more protein in their diet. Focusing on protein bars, our research aimed to highlight flavour preferences as well as the best on-pack descriptors in terms of positive consumer reaction.

Having a wide variety of flavours on the market to draw inspiration from, we compiled a sixty-strong list in order to test for the favourite. We ran six multi-answer steers, each testing ten flavours, and we ranked the sum in order of popularity. You can find the full list below:

To reliably test the sixty flavours we only targeted those members of our consumer community who had confirmed buying protein-related products to achieve their fitness goals. The top ten flavours were then tested with another multi-answer steer so that we could determine the top five, which we used in a preference steer to isolate an exclusive preference and an overall favourite:

The results from the exclusive preference on the left hand side show that chocolate fudge brownie is a winner by around three percentage points, however, looking at all responses on the right hand side, we noticed that the top three variants have attracted similar number of votes. Rather than a clear-cut winner, we have established three flavours, which test well with consumers.

Not only the top five, but also the whole ranking of 60 flavours revealed a trend for sweet flavours, inspired by popular sweet snacks. Consumers are likely looking for less guilty indulgence, i.e. to substitute familiar desserts with healthier alternatives. Positioned as healthy or functional food, protein bars often feature related claims. We used a single-answer steer to determine what drives purchase decisions most among seven key factors in the segment:

The results show that the top four determinants in consumers’ decision making when purchasing a protein bar are relatively equal in the percentage of responses. Still, we thought ‘Low in sugar’ was worth investigating further. Using a ‘Split by description’ steer, we asked two separate sets of consumers whether they would buy an identical protein bar with a low-sugar related claim, described differently for each of the two panel subsets:

The results show that consumers are relatively insensitive to the claims made about the bar as long as they convey the idea of low sugar. Next, we decided to test multiple claims against a single claim:

Using multiple claims resulted in a lower percentage of people answering positively, possibly due to the additional information diluting the effectiveness of the claims made.

Narrowing down our respondents to frequent gym goers who aim to improve strength and conditioning, we obtained a slightly different result. This subset of consumers would be better targeted by claims of higher protein instead of low in sugar as protein is vital in achieving their goal:

Despite strength building frequent gym goers slightly prioritising higher protein content, the percentages overall are not wildly different. Our findings to a large extent represent the current state of the market for protein bars. A key factor in growth for this market is the expansion beyond fitness into healthy snacking for a wider audience. Still, the ability to verify product concepts and obtain fast results is sought after by brands. Vypr can steer decision making more quickly and efficiently than standard market research.