Some years, it’s easy to identify one or two developments that defined the year for the nutraceutical industry. Take 2015, when the New York Attorney General’s (NYAG) infamous investigation into allegedly mislabeled herbal supplements spawned months of negative media coverage. While industry experts quickly worked to expose the flaws in the methodology of the NYAG’s investigation, the controversy and the industry pushback that followed easily made for the biggest story of the year.
But 2016, on the other hand, presented us with top industry news stories from all across the map. This year brought us a new Nutrition Facts label, the introduction of an industry-wide supplement products database, the new Botanical Adulterants Bulletins series, FDA’s revised new dietary ingredient (NDI) draft guidance, and, as always, countless compelling new studies and ingredient launches. Even that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But beyond the obvious headlines, what did Nutritional Outlook’s readers find to be the most essential stories of the year? To find out, we’ve compiled a slideshow of our 10 most-read articles of 2016. The result is a quick snapshot of the stories that gained the most traction among our readership in a year full of consequential industry developments.
#10 — Top-Selling Nutritional Brands of 2016
The latest consumer survey data shared by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) suggests a strong 71% of U.S. adults reported taking dietary supplements in the past year, but which nutritional brands are seeing the most success?
This story, based on data presented by Robert Sanders, executive vice president and practice leader for market researcher Information Resources Inc. (IRI), reveals both the top-selling nutritional brands and the top-selling manufacturers from the past year. Nature Made, Nature’s Bounty, and Clif ranked highest among the top-selling brands of the year, but the percent growth changes from many of the other best-selling brands might surprise you.
#9 — First Probiotic Cold-Brew Coffee Provides Digestive, Immune Health Benefits
Often, the most captivating innovations take place around the product types we are most familiar with. This story focuses on just that kind of a product, a coffee drink from JÙS by Julie that can call itself the first-ever cold-brew coffee containing probiotics.
Each coffee drink, available in original and vanilla flavors, contains 1 billion CFU of Ganeden’s (Cleveland) Ganeden BC30 probiotic strain. JÙS by Julie says “the first-of-its kind option provides users with instant energy, along with additional immune- and digestive-health benefits.”
#8 — Melatonin Misconceptions
Melatonin may be one of the most widely-used ingredients for sleep support in the United States, but its widespread use has also been accompanied by some misconceptions. Melatonin supplements, and the mechanism by which they induce drowsiness, unfortunately do not appear to be fully understood by general consumers.
With that in mind, this slideshow identifies three common misconceptions that consumers—and supplement manufacturers—may want to keep in mind when it comes to melatonin.
#7 — Ocean Spray Launches Cranberry Juice Drink for Medical Settings
Just this month, Ocean Spray (Lakeville-Middleboro, MA) made news in announcing its new Cranberry +Health cranberry juice drink, which the brand is promoting for its potential to fight urinary tract infections (UTIs) in medical settings. With UTIs a particularly concerning issue in hospitals, managed-care facilities, and retirement homes, Ocean Spray’s new cranberry drink is meant to give healthcare providers a nutritional solution in helping their patients manage UTIs.
The launch was also notable given Ocean Spray’s reluctance in the past to explicitly spell out the anti-UTI message of its cranberry products. The brand has often relied on broad messaging that its products “cleanse and purify,” but with this launch the UTI-fighting element is front and center.
#6 — New Cassava Syrup Is Fructose-Free Sweetener
Cassava may be best known in the United States as the source of tapioca syrup, but this 2016 launch from Madhava Natural Sweeteners (Longmont, CO) made the firm the first U.S. food and beverage company to offer a single-ingredient cassava-syrup sweetener at the retailer level, as far as Madhava is aware. The organic cassava-syrup sweetener is available on retailer shelves now as a finished product in 16.25-oz squeeze bottles.
One of the syrup’s big selling points, compared to other sweeteners, is that it's free of fructose, Robin Koiro, senior brand manager for Madhava, told Nutritional Outlook. He added that its sugar profile is 35% maltose, 35% glucose, and 30% complex carbohydrates, and it has a neutral flavor that makes it suitable for a wide range of foods and beverages.
#5 — 2016 Ingredient Trends to Watch: Brain-Health Ingredients
With market researcher IRI reporting sales of brain-health supplements (excluding omega-3s) grew nearly threefold last year to more than $40 million, it’s easy to see why Nutritional Outlook included brain-health ingredients in its 2016 list of ingredient trends to watch.
“The staggeringly high growth rate of the brain-health items that we are tracking is quite telling,” said Lisa Buono, client insights principal, healthcare vertical, IRI. Buono added that the IRI figure does not include sales from specialty stores like GNC or Vitamin Shoppe, so the actual figures for brain health supplements is probably quite a bit higher than $40 million. “Consumers want these products, that’s for sure.”
#4 — FDA’s Latest CBD Warning Letters Cite Health Claims, Drug Applications
The debate over hemp CBD’s legal status continued in February after FDA sent eight warning letters to manufacturers of CBD dietary supplement and food products. The warning letters cited impermissible health claims used to market the products, as well as CBD’s invalid status as a dietary ingredient due to its presence in two drug applications currently under consideration.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive variety of Cannabis sativa and a relative of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It has become increasingly prevalent in food and dietary supplement products, although FDA has not officially recognized CBD as a legal dietary ingredient.
#3 — Cocoa Flavanols: Emerging Research Is Taking Us Deeper Inside the Cacao Bean
Chocolate fans probably won’t be surprised that our third most-read story of the year so far is about new research on cocoa flavanols, bioactive compounds naturally present in the cacao bean. While many of the supposed health benefits of chocolate celebrated in consumer media might not be backed up research, there have been some solid findings on the effects cocoa flavanols have on the human body.
This slideshow explores recent and upcoming cocoa flavanol research on overall cardiovascular health, blood-vessel function in kidney dysfunction patients, and memory and other cognitive improvements.
#2 — 2016 Ingredient Trends to Watch: Algae
Whether its algal sausages, algal drinks, algal cereal bars, or algal cooking oils, there seems to be no limit to the versatility of algae ingredients. It’s not all the unexpected then that this story sits at the #2 spot on our list.
At the time this story was written, Solazyme (San Francisco) said its algae-based ingredients could be found in more than 10 aisles of the grocery store in the United States. Much of that wide reach seems to stem from emerging partnerships built around algae ingredients for food purposes, including their potential usage as meat substitutes or preservatives.
Photo of Solazyme’s AlgaVia Protein Powder courtesy of Solazyme
#1 — 2016 Flavor Trends for Food and Beverage
Our annual flavor story is a hit every year, and 2016's was no exception. Flavor firms weighed in on some of the top flavor ingredients they expected to turn heads.
Frankly, there are too many ingredients mentioned in this story to even begin listing them here, but some of the 2016 trends include a focus on natural and organic flavors, a return to “retro,” all-American flavors, a growing interest in tea flavors, and a continued emphasis on regional flavors from all over the world.