PRODUCT COMPOSITION, INGREDIENTS AND RECIPES: WE REVEAL ALL!

“Why this ingredient and not another?”, “Why do some products have a more intense flavour than others?”... These are the kinds of questions you may have already asked yourself, and which we will answer in this article!

composition-ingredients

Even if you take an interest in it, product composition may still seem like an obscure science. So, when we tell you that we've reduced our list of ingredients and we make healthier products, you think that's good, but without really understanding what it involves… But that was before!

“Why this ingredient and not another?”, “Why do some products have a more intense flavour than others?”, or even “Why is the nutri-score of this isotonic drink not very impressive?”Are these the kinds of questions that you ask yourself and which you don't know where to find the answers to? Nobody can blame you for that, certainly not us. Although the recipe of your favourite product is publicly accessible, the mysterious names of the ingredients it contains don't reveal much more about what you are consuming.Also, in terms of ingredients, the least we can say is that things are happening at Aptonia… quite a lot of things in fact!

Because sports nutrition is specifically adressed to you athletes, we thought you might like to learn more about our selection criteria for the ingredients—what makes a good ingredient and, in contrast, a controversial ingredient. But also about our healthy and simple product policy, our nutri-score and Yuka® score, about the people who help us make choices we are proud of, about our future objectives and some concrete examples of the roles played by the ingredients in our recipes.

So, ready to go through the doors of the Aptonia kitchens?

QUALITIES OF A GOOD INGREDIENT

Aube, the ingredient engineer, is in charge of deciding which ingredients deserve to stay in the game. Yes, Aube is indeed a kind of marshal. The objectives she strives to fulfil on a daily basis include taking a demanding approach to ensure the quality of our ingredients, talking to our suppliers about the feasability of our projects and meeting the physiological needs of athletes while satisfying their taste buds. 

So who could be better placed than Aube to talk about the qualities of a good ingredient? “For us, a good ingredient is an effective ingredient that plays a specific role in the product. A good ingredient must not be controversial from a health point of view. In addition, its environmental impact must be quite low, and it must also be grown where the climate is favourable to its production. A good ingredient must also have a specific health benefit, a clear aspect (i.e. that consumers can understand), and a a low level of processing, so that the final product is close to the initial object”. That's quite a few criteria to fulfil before ingredients can enter our recipes!

WHAT ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS WE DON'T WANT?

It may sound like deciding whether an ingredient must be excluded from a recipe simply involves looking at whether its qualities contrast with those of a good ingredient, but we are actually much more demanding than that. “We go beyond the regulatory framework”, says Aube. “Once an authorised ingredient has been identified (the European Union gives us a list of authorised additives), we do some research to make sure this ingredient is not controversial.The level of quality and the level of control over the origin of the ingredient are essential. So I've drawn up a blacklist of the less natural technical substances which are authorised, but which we don't use”. 

As well as our own criteria, we refuse to use ingredients that are controversial from a health point of view, overly processed or have a high environmental impact, which is the case for cane sugar. In fact, we mainly use beet surgar from France and Germany, because after a three-year transition period, both of these countries have reconverted to organic farming!

SIMPLE, HEALTHY PRODUCTS

We mentioned the simple aspect above. Indeed, we intend to remove as many ingredients from our recipes as possible. Firstly, because we can do without some of them, for example... give 3 examples.And also because we want our products to be recognisable… Seeing little pieces of an ingredient you know, is always reassuring and it often means that the product is tasty #yum!

As for the healthy aspect, it involves removing some sweeteners and colouring, to replace them with natural ingredients. And yes, you may not always expect it, but this inevitably gives our products a less pronounced, less sweet flavour. But do not be fooled by this first mouthful! It only serves to remind you how accustomed you are to refined, processed products, and how much things need to change (we are not yet perfect in this domain, but we are working to improve on a daily basis).Wim, our endurance sports nutrition product manager and accomplished triathlete, gives us a meaningful (if rather frightening) example: “during tests, we noticed that many athletes associate the strawberry flavour with a popular strawberry-flavoured sweet, which is actually not strawberry-flavoured but consists of a blend of sweeteners and flavourings… So herein lies the complexity of our challenge: to have the good taste of natural products appreciated by taste buds accustomed to processed foods”. 

UNDERSTANDING OUR SCORES: NUTRI-SCORE AND YUKA®

The nutri-score, a nutritional labelling system going from letters A to E (A being represented in green, E in red, and C being neutral), aims to tell consumers whether the product they are about to buy is nutritionally good for their health. You may have already noticed it on some consumer goods. 

Although we also aim to provide you with the best nutritional information possible, we must tell you that for the moment, this system seems unsuited to our sports nutrition products. Indeed, sugar meets many needs, and as our muscles' main source of fuel, it has a significant role to play in sport activities. However, we know that outside of sport, the consumption of sweet foods is strongly discouraged. The nutri-score does not differentiate between sport nutrition and general nutrition, therefore it makes sense that 100 grams of isotonic powder has a nutri-score E rating.In 2022, the European Commission will take a decision concerning a harmonised system that takes into account our specific characteristics… Until then, we are not sure we will adopt the nutri-score.

With regards to Yuka®, the popular application that allows you to see a product's impact on your health via its barcode, things are very different: “we find it difficult to go over 70% (the score is given as a percentage) because our products contain sugar, but at least they are compared to comparable products”, explains Wim, endurance sports nutrition product manager. 

SKILLED TEAMS FOR TOP OF THE LINE PRODUCTS!

So, you already know Aube, aka the Enola Holmes of ingredients. She knows everything there is to know about them, nothing gets past her! There is also Juliette, the product engineer. Juliette is specialised in the analysis of athletes' needs. Her mission? Using the green lists and blacklists drawn up by Aube, to find all the ingredients that are effective for sports activity in terms of energy values, flavour and texture (difficult to chew on a piece of bread while running!). Once the recipe is complete, it is handed over to an external partner specialised in nutrition.We place a lot of importance on the comments of this sports physician, taking about 80% of his suggestions on board! In short, this winning trio allows us to develop complete, effective products which we are particularly proud of.

Finally, and despite the fact that we don't work in collaboration with him, we are also very sensitive to how we rank in the classifications of Nicolas Aubineau, sports dietitian and nutritionist. Our aim is to improve our products so that they meet your needs.

THE SPORTS NUTRITION OF TOMORROW AT APTONIA

When we ask Aube the question, she is categorical: by 2026, Aptonia must be 100% clean (RSL, Restricted Substances List), and 100% clear (in other words, all athletes have to understand the function of the ingredients contained in our products). We also asked Aube where she thought Aptonia currently stands, on a scale of 1 to 10 representing our sports nutrition objectives, “overall it's really not so bad: 6 or 7!”. So, we have already covered some distance… but it's not over!

But you may be asking yourself about our current products: have we invented the ideal recipe—effective, delicious, free of additives and controversial ingredients? Well, Aube the ingredient specialist finds our new organic and non-organic bars irreproachable, including our breakfast bar and bio energy fruit bar! And that's nice to hear!

Moreover, in terms of the ingredients we still need to replace, we have already started using beet sugar instead of glucose syrup and glucose-fructose syrup. “Although sugar remains a consumer perception problem, especially with regards to applications that take macronutrients into account, we cannot fight that but we must remember that our products are adapted to the needs of athletes”.

cereal bar

SHORT GLOSSARY OF INGREDIENTS

We are aiming to reduce our ingredient lists and make them intelligible… In fact, we have already taken steps in that direction! Here is the proof:

 

The recipe of our organic, gluten-free seed and almond bar:

- Seeds, almonds, rice syrup, rolled oats and honey for energy.

- Seeds and almonds for flavour and crunch. 

- Dried rice syrup and sunflower oil for texture.

- Acerola juice powder for vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects your cells against oxidative stress and contributes to normal energy metabolism.

- The tocopherol-rich extract, in turn, limits oxidation of the product.

We hope that this article will help you to understand our approach and the small steps we are taking towards healthier and more natural sports nutrition, and, why not, help you adhere to it yourself! In fact, this is a perfect opportunity to remind you how much the reviews you leave us on decathlon.fr are useful to us! By taking the time to write to us, you are giving us new areas to explore and helping us to improve our products… So, thanks for your precious help!

After all, we haven't mentioned this yet but the sports nutrition of tomorrow is a path we must tread together. So, are you game?

manon-bar

Manon

Daughter, sister and partner of cyclists. *Trail runner raised in the great outdoors, at the school of sport. In the process of acquiring ultra* prefix.Marathon runner and 2013 French Junior 10,000 metres race walk champion. Passionate about athletes' stories.

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