Digestive enzyme opportunities: high protein, plant sources, pet health, and more

Sep 14, 2018

Digestive health is a growing market with ample opportunities for manufacturer and brand expansion. Take digestive enzyme supplements. Data provided to Nutritional Outlook by Innova Market Insights (Arnhem, Netherlands) show an 8.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the number of digestive enzyme products launched from 2013 to 2017. While sports nutrition products remain the top market category for digestive enzymes, accounting for 82% of all product launches, Innova’s data show that digestive enzymes are branching off into more categories. For instance, soft drink product launches containing digestive enzymes grew by 78% to account for 4.5% of new food and beverage product launches, according to Innova. Dairy products featuring enzymes, while still a minor trend, also saw significant growth, increasing by 57% to account for 2.7% of product launches, Innova says.

New product launches like these aren’t the only market growth indicators for supplementary enzymes. Analysts and researchers are also predicting an increase in overall market valuation. According to Credence Research, the global digestive enzymes market, which had an estimated valuation of $845.8 million in 2016, is expected to see a 6.9% CAGR for the next seven years, growing to $1.58 billion by 2025.1

As the digestive enzyme market continues to grow and more SKUs enter the category, experts say several key trends are starting to emerge. Here are just a few of the ways the digestive enzymes space is evolving.

Enzymes Gain Popularity in High-Protein Formulations

Protein supplements and high-protein products were once the domain of bodybuilders and professional athletes, but now, mainstream consumers are adopting protein as a daily supplement to their diet. With an expected CAGR of 6.3% from now until 2025, according to Grand View Research, the global protein supplement market is gaining new consumers such as women who do strength training and older consumers who want to maintain an active lifestyle.2

Tod Burgess, vice president of sales at Deerland Enzymes (Kennesaw, GA), says digestive enzymes are ideal for use in high-protein products due to their ability to break down large proteins into usable amino acids.

Says Burgess: “As an increasing number of people are taking whey protein to obtain more desirable lean muscle mass, enzymes like our branded and patented ProHydrolase become more critical. To be effective, protein must be broken down into a smaller particle size within about 90 minutes of consumption. Whey proteins are often too large to be effectively assimilated, leaving large peptides that can cause discomfort in some consumers.”

Mike Smith, vice president of Specialty Enzymes (Chino, CA), agrees, noting that enzymes are particularly useful in formulating high-protein meal replacement shakes. “Typically, adults can only digest about 2 oz of protein at a time. But athletes and bodybuilders need to consume more in order to reduce catabolism of muscle tissue. Protease enzymes increase digestion of protein and improve absorption of the resulting amino acids, which improves the nutritional value of meal replacement shakes,” he explains.

The broader adoption of protein-rich supplements and increasing consumer awareness around protein will allow proteolytics brands to gain market share as a mainstream consumer product. As the protein supplement market continues to grow, expect protein products to incorporate additional proteolytic enzymes like pepsin and trypsin in new formulations.

Plant-Based Enzymes See Substantial Growth

Smith says that while enzymes sourced from animals previously dominated the market, the trend has reversed, and today, plant-based and microbial enzymes are the norm. Animal-sourced enzymes fell out of favor among large consumer groups due to religious and lifestyle choices, he says, which is why manufacturers and brands have turned to plant-based enzymes instead.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in plant-sourced enzymes, like bromelain extracted from the pineapple stem, as well as microbial-sourced enzymes produced through fermentation,” he says. “These enzymes are suitable for vegetarians and they’re both kosher and halal-certified, which means almost anyone can take them.”

Lifestyle factors and growth of the vegan market in general are two significant drivers behind the growth in plant enzymes. Burgess points to another, more formulation-based consideration that is fueling the plant-based enzyme submarket. Says Burgess: “Plant cell walls contain cellulose, which is very difficult for humans to digest because we don’t produce the enzyme cellulase. Vegans in particular need to supplement with dietary enzymes in order to ensure they obtain all the nutritional benefits of fresh produce.”

Furthermore, plant-sourced enzymes present some significant advantages over animal-sourced enzymes when formulating an enzyme-based product. Shaheen Majeed, president of Sabinsa Worldwide (East Windsor, NJ), says that plant-sourced enzymes don’t require enteric or protective coating to survive exposure to gastric acid in the stomach. This survivability allows plant-sourced enzymes to maintain activity further along in the digestive tract relative to animal-sourced enzymes.

“Animal-based enzymes work better at a lower body temperature and a neutral-to-alkaline pH range,” Majeed notes. “But plant-based enzymes and their microbe-based counterparts are very active at higher temperatures and in acidic environments.”

  1. Credence Research. “Global digestive enzymes supplement market is expected to reach US $1579.5 Mn by 2025.” Published online September 9, 2017.
  2. Grand View Research. “Protein supplements market analysis by raw material (whey, casein, pea), by source, by product (protein powder, protein bar, RTD), by distribution channel, by application, and segment forecasts, 2018-2025.”
  3. Grand View Research. “Digestive enzyme supplements market analysis by origin (animal, plant, microbial), by application (additional supplements, medical & infant nutrition, sports nutrition), by region (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, CSA, MEA), and segment forecasts, 2018-2025.”
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “The brain-gut connection.” Published online September 22, 2014.
  5. Deerland Enzymes. “The history of enzyme supplements.” Published online June 30, 2005.