Consumers Ready for Condition-Specific Supplements

 

Functional foods and supplements that address specific health conditions are finally poised for strong growth and could lead the packaged goods category to greater heights in 2007, according to several market research sources.

The trend reflects consumer movement away from general wellness products in favor of items that claim to help prevent more serious ailments such as heart disease or arthritis.

“With increased availability and greater consumer demand, functional foods and beverages that offer health and disease prevention benefits beyond basic nutrition are at the cusp of a major growth wave in the United States,” Information Resources Inc. (IRI; Chicago) noted in February.

GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES

Highlighting the category’s significance, IRI praised condition-specific products in its 2006 Year in Review report on consumer packaged goods and included two condition-specific brands on its list of New Products Pacesetters for 2006. Making the list this year were Kraft’s (Northfield, IL) South Beach Diet line, aimed at consumers interested in weight loss, and Dannon’s (White Plains, NY) Activia probiotic yogurt, which supports immune health.

According to Sunny Garga, president of IRI’s business and consumer insights group, growing demand for nutritional products will create new opportunities for foods and beverages that provide specific health benefits like protection from heart disease.

“Clearly, a number of trends will impact new product development focus and opportunity next year, ranging from a rising number of gourmet consumers to a growing demand for eco-friendly packaging,” Garga says. “However, the drive to incorporate more nutritious foods and beverages into consumer diets will be the dominant force by far.”

IRI wasn’t alone in its admiration for condition-specific goods. Last November, Packaged Facts (New York City) predicted that condition-specific products would help drive dietary supplement sales over the $6 billion mark by 2011. “Long-term health benefits and prevention are the leading motivators, particularly for baby boomers, who are big on supplementation as a means to wellness,” the market research firm noted. “Age-related condition-specific products, including weight, diabetes, joint, and eye health, as well as heavy emphasis on omega-3s and organics, will continue to proliferate in the years ahead.”

Moreover, the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI; Harleysville, PA) also reported in August that American consumers had increased their use of condition-specific products by 119% since 1999, achieving a 5-year compound annual growth rate of 17%. According to NMI, consumers turned to condition-specific supplements to address a range of health concerns, including prostate, joint, cardiovascular, and immune disorders.

Because consumers are easily overwhelmed and confused by the array of options available to them, condition-specific products can help them feel empowered, enabling them to take charge of their lives in a way that is convenient and understandable.

“One of the reasons for the continued growth of condition-specific supplements,” NMI managing partner Steve French noted, “is the fact that consumers are purchasing solutions and benefits, rather than simply nutrients and ingredients.”

Another reason is that manufacturers have begun to perfect new delivery forms for condition-specific supplements that are often more appealing to consumers than traditional pills and capsules. Examples include liquid formulas, sprays, dissolvable strips, and chewable tablets. These innovations not only attract new customers but also improve compliance among existing customers.

A third reason for the category’s continued growth is mounting evidence that functional foods and supplements have documented health benefits. “Along with the revitalization of many new supplement innovations and discoveries, consumers are also more likely to be influenced in their purchasing decisions by a number of factors such as clinical documentation,” according to French. “Based on the most recent data, this desire for clinical studies shows a remarkable increase and reverses a five-year downward trend.”

TAKING HEED

Raw ingredient suppliers and manufacturers have been paying attention to the trend as well. One sign: CardiaBeat, the winner of this year’s NutrAward competition at Nutracon in March. Manufactured by Enzymotec (Migdal Ha’Emeq, Israel), CardiaBeat aims to offer consumers a convenient and specific solution to one of their top health concerns—cardiovascular health. The product, which combines plant sterols with EPA and DHA, already has new dietary ingredient and GRAS status in the United States. Enzymotec CEO Ariel Katz predicts a science-driven approach, combined with aggressive marketing, will help the cardiovascular health category flourish. “CardiaBeat simply takes well-established supplements such as omega-3 and plant sterols to the next level of efficacy and convenience,” says Katz.