Dietary supplement companies are offering more vegan-friendly ingredients these days to fill nutrient gaps in the vegan diet, replace animal byproducts, or simply to create variety. Vegan ingredients aren’t restricted to vegans, either. A recent SPINS report(1) highlights the public’s overall growing appetite for “plant-centric diets.” As SPINS points out, more consumers in general are tending toward plant-based diets and the ingredients therein.
“Merging a plant-based, vegan mentality with a whole, unrefined ingredient profile taps into nutritional and environmental aspects consumers are seeking, even omnivores,” the report states. “Products in this growing segment don trending attribution like organic, ancient grains, sprouted, whole-grain, and ‘free of’ options that espouse the dogma to good health.” SPINS cites growing U.S. sales for vegan products, especially among “chips, pretzels, and snacks,” the largest category by far. (Source: SPINSscan Natural, 52 weeks ending 10/4/2015.)
In the dietary supplements market, the vegan trend is also evident, with expanding ingredient choices. Regardless of your reason for purchasing vegan, these ingredients can add value to finished products and in often interesting ways. From highly sophisticated ingredients to quite basic ones, here’s a brief look at recent vegan market innovations that can serve supplements.
1. SPINS Trendwatch, “Plant-Based Nutrition: Plant-Centric Diet Trends in the Natural & Organic Industry.” December 2015.
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A key concern for vegans and vegetarians is iron intake. Studies on both populations show that iron deficiency can be a concern, especially for females. For this reason, Frutarom (Haifa, Israel) is now marketing a novel, encapsulated iron ingredient to the vegan/vegetarian market.
The ingredient, AB-Fortis, is encapsulated so that iron is not distributed freely into food and beverage matrices. The process keeps free iron from dispersing and thereby reduces the metallic taste and oxidation that can be common in iron supplements, as well as any side effects related to challenges digesting iron.
“Because iron isn’t as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians (and vegans) is almost double that of non-vegetarians,” said Frutarom Health product manager Wouter Haazen in a recent press release. “It’s hard to increase iron intake from food alone.”
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Although vegans can supplement with vitamin D, they have historically resorted to vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), which can be sourced from irradiated mushrooms. Limited but continuing research(2) suggests that vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), primarily sourced from sheep’s wool, is actually a more bioavailable form of vitamin D. Vegans looking for D3 but in a non-animal source now have another option: a recently identified plant source of vitamin D3.
According to The GHT Companies (Vista, CA), lichen is the only known source of vegan cholecalciferol. U.S. manufacturers can obtain it from The GHT Companies, which claims to own the exclusive North American rights to this D3 material as well as global distribution rights to any products containing the material. Last year, the company introduced it in a three-flavored gummy prototype product.
“Previously, as D3 usually comes from lanolin extracted from sheep’s wool grease, vegans would have had to settle for vitamin D2, the less-effective ergocalciferol form. The trademarked Vitashine ingredient is the only vegan vitamin D3 registered with several worldwide organizations, including the UK Vegan Society,” the company stated in a press release.
2. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01139840
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Seaweed and Other Water-Based Plants
A unique characteristic of some plants that grow in water is that they address common vegan deficiencies, like lack of vitamin B12,(3) selenium,(4) and iodine.(5) Dulse, spirulina, and chlorella are a few examples. Dulse is available in a red flake form, while spirulina and chlorella offer green–blue hues as powders and liquids.
There’s a great diversity of plant-based products available for dietary supplements, and the many water-based ones offer unique positioning, such as water-saving harvesting practices. A duckweed protein from Hinoman (Tel Aviv, Israel), for example, runs on hydroponic growing practices that reuse water. (Pictured: duckweed)
3. Merchant RE et al., “Nutritional supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa lowers serum methylmalonic acid in vegans and vegetarians with a suspected vitamin B₁₂ deficiency,” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 18, no. 12 (December 2015): 1357-1362
4. Cases J et al., “Assessment of selenium bioavailability from high-selenium spirulina subfractions in selenium-deficient rats,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 50, no. 13 (June 19, 2002): 3867-3873
5. Krajcovicová-Kudlácková M, “Iodine deficiency in vegetarians and vegans,” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 47, no. 5 (2003): 183-185
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Protein fortification is already increasingly done with plants, including peas, hemp, rice, and a variety of other vegan-friendly ingredients. Alongside the wide variety of plant proteins already on the market, Taiyo GmbH (Schwelm, Germany) just introduced a new grass protein, according to Food Ingredients First.(6)
What distinguishes Taiyo’s grass protein isn’t just its source of six different sweet grasses and legume species; it’s that this mix is rich in protein and gabba-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Since GABA is associated with calming and de-stressing qualities in published research, the notion of protein and GABA in a post-workout formula should generate interest.
“The grass grows so fast, it can be cut four or five times a year and is completely natural and sustainable,” said Taiyo GmbH managing director Stefan Siebrecht in an interview with Food Ingredients First. “Normally it ends up in the biogas industry to form gas and electricity, but now we can make food out of it.”
If Taiyo has a successful campaign with this vegan protein in Europe, U.S. manufacturers might eventually get access via the company’s Minneapolis distribution hub.
6. Thijssen, Liesbeth, “Taiyo Partners on Grass Protein as Alternative Vegan Source of BCAA and GABA,” Food Ingredients First. February 29, 2016, http://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/Taiyo-Partners-on-Grass-Protein-as-Alternative-Vegan-Source-of-BCAA-and-GABA
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One of today’s popular ingredients for managing joint health is glucosamine. Unfortunately, the majority of glucosamine on the market comes from shellfish, which can only be harvested seasonally. In light of the production issue, suppliers offer a renewable, vegan-friendly source.
A handful of suppliers have created glucosamine ingredients out of various fermentation and fungal processes, including Cargill’s (Minneapolis) Regenasure ingredient, TSI USA Inc.’s (Missoula, MT) GlucosaGreen, and Ethical Naturals Inc.’s (San Anselmo, CA) GreenGrown glucosamine. The resulting glucosamine isn’t just plant-based; it doesn’t require an allergy warning and it tends to be whiter in color. Because it’s produced in labs, vegan-friendly glucosamine is both sustainable and renewable.
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Highly sophisticated sports ingredients can also be vegan, as evidenced by a recent offering from Innobio Ltd. (Dalian, China). In 2014, the company introduced a vegan branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) powder that’s micro-encapsulated with sunflower lecithin. Beyond being allergy free thanks to the source, Innobio’s vegan BCAA powder is quickly dispersible in water. This makes it a potential choice for sports beverages, as well as bulk powders.
While other vegan BCAAs may vary in their precise amino acid contents, Innobio’s is a mixture of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine in a 2:1:1 ratio.
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A vegan supplement’s outfit is as important as its content, and so vegan capsule sales are on the rise. In response to the growing demand, capsules provider Capsugel (Greenwood, SC) injected $25 million into its production capacity of vegetarian capsules and has made several recent innovations in its Vcaps vegetarian capsules.
The company also recently certified its Vcaps capsules under the Certified Vegan seal, ensuring its capsules are not just sourced from vegan ingredients but also free of cross-contamination with any that are not. According to Capsugel, a new organic capsule is in the works.
*Picture featured is not of Vcaps.
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While vegan products can be represented with value-added seals, this has often been the extent of marketing support for vegan sales. A newly formed industry organization, however, hopes to change that.
The Plant-Based Foods Association was recently created with a mission to increase the visibility of plant-based foods within the industry and to ensure fair and competitive markets for plant-based goods through a variety of media and legal strategies. Many manufacturers and ingredient suppliers have already joined the organization.
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