2020 Dietary supplement trends, according to contract manufacturers

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Nutritional Outlook, Volume 23, Issue 1

Contract manufacturers share trends they see based on what’s made in their facilities.

If you want to know what’s trending, ask a contract manufacturer. Contract manufacturers are in the trenches making products day in and day out for dietary supplement brands, giving them a valuable look at what some truly innovative brands are doing. And while they can’t divulge brand secrets, they can often provide an overall look at what’s trending based on what’s being made in their facilities as well as based on their own market tracking and overview.

So, what trends are contract manufacturers seeing this year?


Nutritional Outlook: Can you pinpoint a few topline product trends your company expects to see grow in the coming year? Also, are there specific health product markets you expect will be especially active in 2020?


Doug Brown, Sales and Marketing Director, Americas, Sirio Pharma [U.S. and China]: “The biggest trend we continue to see is an acceleration in demand for plant-based products globally-it’s the product class that will define the market in 2020. In addition to this, customers are also looking to work with contract providers that can help them work across the broadest spectrum of delivery systems. We can help them move their entire catalogs to plant-based products. More generally, we are also seeing the desire for greater numbers of ‘low sugar’ or ‘no sugar’ products. In terms of contract services, customers are often looking for more strategic partners that they can work with across the globe, delivering in multiple markets and continents.”

Vincent Tricarico, Vice President, Contract Manufacturing, NutraScience Labs (Farmingdale, NY): “We expect the popularity of clean flavor systems for powders to continue in 2020. We’ve also seen more brands successfully enter the beauty-from-within and sports nutrition categories in 2019, and there’s no sign of that trend slowing down over the next 12 months. The primary reason why these brands are doing so well is because they’ve learned to successfully leverage social media platforms, specifically Instagram. Lastly, sleep and memory products should continue to thrive next year.”

Bart Child, Senior Vice President, Commercial Development, Nellson (Anaheim, CA): “Consumers are more conscious than ever about what they eat and understand the connection between nutrition and overall health and wellness and are seeking products to meet specific dietary needs. Of current interest are products that deliver specific functional benefits: brain, eye, cardiovascular, and mitochondrial health. Serving a wide range of consumer markets (sports performance, active nutrition, wellness, weight management, and medical nutrition) allows us to see how trends can vary in definition and appeal depending on the different consumer within each market segment. For example, the trend in products promoting brain health can vary depending on the category: 1) Sports nutrition: for sports and active nutrition cognitive health products for focus, concentration, learning, memory, and reaction time, 2) Weight management: products supporting weight loss might include nootropics by working to improve focus and energy and enhance mood and motivation, 3) Aging population: mental focus, mental alertness, boost of energy.”

Tim Chiprich, Vice President, Product Development, CAPTEK Softgel International (Cerritos, CA): “The trends that CAPTEK will target are hemp products/CBD due to the increasing demand. Beauty products are growing in demand, and CAPTEK will focus on growing both ingestible supplements and topical single-use cosmetics. CAPTEK has been working on new dosage forms for probiotics in addition to the traditional two-piece hard-shell capsules. Finally, clean-label products that use whole-food matrix ingredients will be heavily integrated in CAPTEK’s focus.”

Adam Ishaq, Sales Manager, GMP Laboratories of America Inc. (Anaheim, CA): “One of the biggest product trends we expect to see in 2020 is a continued increase in customized nutrition for consumers based on their diet, age, and other personal factors. Consumers seem to be getting away from looking at ‘cookie cutter’ formulations that are made for a broad audience and instead want formulas and supplement programs that can specifically help them with issues they are having.”

Eugene Ung, CEO, Best Formulations (City of Industry, CA): “For 2020, we see a continuation of existing product trends such as collagen, turmeric, vitamin D, etc. Clean-label formulas (utilizing natural, non-GMO, organic ingredients) with minimal excipients will continue to be strong. We’re seeing strong interest in rebranding eye and vision formulas for e-sport applications. The elephant-in-the-room sort of speak is CBD. There is a huge amount of interest in this area, whether companies are admitting they are participating or not. However, growth and opportunities hinge on FDA and industry finding some common ground of a regulatory path.”

Barri Sigvertsen, Global Innovation Marketing, Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition (Morristown, NJ): “With consumers becoming more and more interested in supporting their wellbeing, in addition to that of the planet, we anticipate that the number of consumers seeking products that reflect these preferences and values will continue to rise. As such, we expect to see the trend for products with clean-label, natural, vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based positionings gain further traction in 2020. As part of this, consumers are also leading increasingly active day-to-day lifestyles, so we expect the market for joint health and sports nutrition products to continue to rise as people look to support everyday health and performance. We also anticipate further growth of the probiotics market as consumers become more attuned to benefits of supporting their overall health.”

Mark LeDoux, CEO, Natural Alternatives International (Carlsbad, CA): “I think that the primary trends will be to provide products with adequate scientific support to address condition-specific issues. Recent court rulings have indicated the bias for substantiation is in favor of obtaining a significant scientific consensus through randomized controlled clinical studies involving adequate and sufficient numbers of subjects for evaluation. I also think that the probiotic space is going to face challenges as well based on viability of cultures presented to consumers. Based on the research we have seen, lyophilized cultures not presented in protected and refrigerated packaging may be the subject of concern of both consumers and the plaintiff’s bar.

With the current explosion of all things cannabidiol and the emergence of litigation at the class action level against companies producing edible products containing CBD, this will most likely be the most closely watched component of the industry. That said, I also think that products that address healthy aging, restful sleep, improved digestion and elimination, improved vision, and other significant health concerns of joint and muscle discomfort are going to continue to achieve wide acceptance-assuming they deliver to the consumer positive results.”

Steve Holtby, President and CEO, Soft Gel Technologies Inc. (Los Angeles, CA): “Consumers look for bioavailability, potency, and purity as key factors in their supplement purchases. Another trend is that consumers want ‘natural’ supplements-those without fillers or chemicals, products made with natural and/or hypoallergenic ingredients, and gentle/buffered formulations. Many avoid supplements with artificial colors/flavors. Whole-food supplements are a growing segment in this supplement category. Some of the top health conditions for which consumers will seek products targeted to improve their quality of life include: healthy aging, anti-inflammatory, energy, sexual vitality, weight loss, sleep aids, and anti-anxiety.”

Nutritional Outlook: In terms of trending delivery formats, which types of deliveries do you expect to see the most requests for in 2020, including supplements, food, drinks, and beauty products?


Maxine Weber, Global Director of Marketing, Health and Wellness, Ashland (Wilmington, DE): “There is a growing interest in crossover formats-so, for example, beauty benefits delivered in a beverage format, or a weight-management product delivered in a topical application. I think the desire is to broaden the delivery format of the nutraceutical to be as easy to incorporate into [a consumer’s] daily routine as possible. For example, we make Phase 2 extract, which helps reduce absorption of carbohydrates. We have a customer who put Phase 2 into a stick pack with savory flavors so that its customers could just sprinkle the product onto their pasta or rice. So now, this application feels more like a seasoning than a supplement.

From our personal care colleagues, we know that the beauty customers are looking for beauty-from-within solutions. We recently created a beauty-from-within drink, which includes collagen and our GPM biotin. Customers were so enthusiastic about it, we will be sharing this same demo with our European colleagues at INCOS, a personal care tradeshow in Europe in March.”

Vincent Tricarico: “We expect to continue to see high demand for clean flavor systems for powders and vegetarian two-piece capsules.”

Bart Child: “Formats that deliver on-the-go convenience and portability are maintaining their popularity. In the bar market, formats appealing to this trend are bites and mini bars. Bites and mini bars today go beyond convenience and shareability; they deliver on portion control-in-between meal snacks or calorie counting. Convenience for powders (ready-to-mix) means portability and single serving sizes. Sticks packs and sachets offer single-use portions that are portable and ready to use.”

Adam Ishaq: “We expect to see a continued growth in requests for powder drink mixes. It seems to be a large trend that people want supplements they can add to their daily coffee or smoothies.”

Eugene Ung: “Powders in stick packs seem to have strong demand as brands are trying to incorporate their products into the daily lives of the consumer. The traditional softgels and hard-shell capsules will remain staples.”

Steve Holtby: “As a softgel contract manufacturer, we’re a ‘legacy’ format manufacturer, so all of our projects fall into that one delivery format. According to Nutrition Business Journal estimates comparing 2013 to 2018, alternative and novel delivery formats-including powders, effervescent products, and gummies-are up 12%.” (Source: NBJ Summit State of the Industry Presentation, July 2019)

Barri Sigvertsen: “While it is likely that innovative delivery formats will continue to emerge, consumers essentially want solutions that are convenient and easy to consume. 2019 research commissioned by Lonza showed that capsules remain the preferred dosage form of choice for 42% of U.S. consumers thanks to their convenient, versatile, and easy-to-swallow properties. (Reference: Natural Marketing Institute SORD study, US; 2019.) We also expect to see products that offer combinations or more targeted solutions, such as Lonza’s DUOCAP capsule-in-capsule and proprietary lipid multiparticulate (LMP) technologies, to gain traction. Lonza’s DRcaps controlled-release capsule can also support manufacturers and brands looking for tailored solutions by offering targeted release profiles, while vegetarian dosage forms such as Plantcaps capsules offer a plant-based alternative that is created through a fermentation process and offers superior oxygen barrier properties.”

Tim Chiprich: “CAPTEK Softgel International has witnessed increased requests for various delivery formats, and we expect to see continued growth in 2020 for CBD/hemp products in softgels due to its ideal dosage form, its availability in vegetarian softgels, and ease of use. In addition, CAPTEK expects to see growth in single-use cosmetic products in vegetarian softgel dosages that both look attractive and don’t have unpleasant odors. We are also developing chewable softgels that act as an alternative to gummies and allow a higher payload of active ingredients than with gummies.”

Mark LeDoux: “Products that require special care to protect against moisture, ultraviolet light exposure, or excess heat are driving the need for more protective packaging that is recyclable and environmentally responsible. Portability for daily use is also going to see increased demand as is convenience of use.”


Nutritional Outlook: Are there any novel delivery formats you expect to see more requests for in 2020?


Vincent Tricarico: “While I wouldn’t categorize it as being ‘novel’ so much these days, all of the industry data we’ve reviewed suggest that gummy vitamins will continue to gain traction as manufacturing becomes more consistent, lead times become more manageable, and consumer demand for this dose form continues to increase.”

Eugene Ung: “The demand for gummies continues to be strong. We’re also seeing increased requests for chewable softgels because, for certain ingredients and applications, chewable softgels may be able to deliver a higher dosage of the active.”

Adam Ishaq: “We expect to see a growth in chewable products, whether those are chewable flavored tablets or soft-chew products. We also have seen a continued increase in requests for sachet/stick packs for powder delivery forms.”

Mark LeDoux: “The rapid growth of ‘soft-chew’ gummy-based dosage forms is probably going to slow down, and on a value proposition alone, I believe that capsules and tablets will see a resurgence of growth given the cost disparities between these dosage forms.”

Doug Brown: “Gummies undoubtedly remain a very hot product both in the U.S. and Europe. But what we are now seeing is a wider breadth of ingredients used and consumer types buying these products. Probiotics continue to trend strongly, and we are also seeing a noticeable uptick in demand for prebiotic and synbiotic formulations. This combination with the gummy format pairs a newer type of on-trend product with the fastest-growing delivery form. The result has been a surge in demand from consumers.”

Tim Chiprich: “CAPTEK Softgel International expects increased requests in 2020 for the following novel delivery formats: 1) Probiotics in softgel dosage form with new technologies allowing the encapsulation of non-spore forms of probiotics, 2) More whole-food ingredients that can replace traditional supplement excipients, 3) Flavored supplements that use natural flavors to mask the odor of supplements.”

Maxine Weber: “In general, we see trends for portability, increased convenience, and novel sensory experiences. In the fall, we launched a new product, StableFizz effervescent base, which delivers these consumer benefits with an exciting benefit to the manufacturer. This innovative delivery system provides effervescence for sachets, tablets, or powdered beverages without requiring special humidity controls or packaging. We used the collective knowledge of our formulation scientists with the expertise of our manufacturing engineers to create this novel granulation. We have been thrilled with the level of interest this product has generated. You might say that customers are bubbling over with excitement.”

Bart Child: “We expect to see more requests for powdered stick pack products that are single-use, single-dose, and do not require water-just open the stick pack and pour into your mouth. This is a great option for delivering a very specific dose of a functional ingredient. For example, a single dose of lutein for eye health can be dispensed right onto the tongue-no water, bottle, or shaker needed.”

Steve Holtby: “Finished-product manufacturers strive to provide consumers with dietary supplements that offer optimum health and value. In order to achieve these two goals, the appropriate delivery system must be selected. Of course, when determining whether to formulate in a tablet, capsule, or softgel, consumer preference for vegetarian ingredients, pill size, and dosing compliance are important issues to ponder. However, the dosage form chosen will have a significant impact on bioavailability and should be one of the major considerations when selecting a particular delivery system. Supplement effectiveness is highly dependent on how the nutrients are delivered to the body (i.e., bioavailability).

Dietary supplements come in many forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, energy bars, and liquids. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act clearly states that a dietary supplement is intended for ingestion and may not resemble a food or meal replacement.”

Nutritional Outlook: Which trending ingredients do you anticipate seeing greatest demand for in 2020?


Mark LeDoux: “Products with new dietary ingredient (NDI) ‘acknowledgement’ (AKL) status [and] products that have undergone the rigors of double-blind crossover controlled studies and which may have received patents would be my bet.”

Vincent Tricarico: “Less will continue to be more in 2020. For example, demand for collagen products was white-hot in 2019, and there’s no reason to believe that it will slow down next year. We also expect to see more demand for unflavored protein.”

Adam Ishaq: “Collagen seems to be an ingredient that will stay in 2020, as we are constantly receiving requests for collagen products from finished-product brands with a variety of product lines.”

Bart Child: “Ingredients from natural sources that provide a variety of functional benefits, such as adaptogens and nootropics.”

Eugene Ung: “[Ingredients that are] similar to the topline trends: collagen, turmeric, CBD, vitamin D, biotin, essential oils.”

Maxine Weber: “In addition to some novel delivery formats, the bulk of the nutraceutical market is still in tablet form. We see demand for updating tablet formulations such as ability to make organic claims, reducing tablet size, and eliminating undesirable ingredients. With our expertise in tablet formulation, we created several ingredients to help our customers address these needs. Our new Aquarius TiO2 Free coating provides excellent color and coverage without the use of titanium dioxide. We also have introduced NutraPress binder, which is a binder for organic supplements.”

Tim Chiprich: “CAPTEK Softgel International maintains over 3,000 different active raw materials in house at any given time, from over 300 different vendors. The trending ingredients we anticipate for 2020 include: 1) Natural colorants that are stable and attractive, 2) Natural cosmetic ingredients, both ingestible and topical, 3) Natural flavors that truly mask the odor of supplements without being overpowering.”

Barri Sigvertsen: “Evolving consumer preferences are driving greater demand for more natural, sustainable ingredients with cleaner labels that are science-backed, support a healthy lifestyle, and meet transparency and traceability ideals. For this reason, we expect that ingredients that speak to the demand for more values-based supplement products, like Lonza’s innovative, vegan MuscleGuard formula, to resonate more and more with consumers in 2020. The new MuscleGuard formulation comprises a unique blend of four ingredients derived from vegan sources. Clinical research identified that this powerful combination can support significant muscle health benefits, including a 63% increase in muscle strength, mass, and activity in a clinical study on older people to support consumers’ sports and exercise aspirations. (Reference: Bellamine et al., Nutr Metab, 2017)

Furthermore, sports nutrition solutions that also align with other major trends, such as the boom of marine ingredients-like our Oceanix marine phytoplankton-offer added value for those seeking products with natural and clean-label credentials to support sports performance. The Oceanix brand delivers high concentrations of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a highly active antioxidant enzyme that helps to protect against oxidative stress during exercise. We also anticipate that UC-II undenatured type II collagen will continue to rise in prominence as consumers increasingly search for solutions that support longer-term joint health and mobility.”

Doug Brown: “What is really driving the market are new, innovative combinations of ingredients. For example, omega-3 and probiotics individually remain high-demand ingredients, but the combination of the two opens up an innovative new solution pathway for consumers. With new capabilities, there is a great deal of excitement in being able to bring these together for new formulations. Sirio has a number of patents for this technology, and we have really led the market here in delivering new formulations with stable shelf lives and good levels of probiotic activity. In fact, we are only just beginning to explore all the potential here. It’s very much an area to watch closely in 2020.”


Nutritional Outlook: Are there any specific packaging or labeling trends you expect to be especially popular in 2020?


Mark LeDoux: “Under the new [FDA Nutrition Facts] labeling guidelines and further requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act, I believe transparency will be the mantra of the day. The deployment of ‘proprietary blends’ is probably going to decline substantially given the desire of consumers to know precisely what they are buying.”

Tim Chiprich: “Due to ever-increasing requests from our clients for packaging support, CAPTEK Softgel International has expanded our bottling service offerings. Several packaging and/or labeling trends we expect to grow in 2020 include packaging that protects the product if delivered by mail-order, new Supplement Facts regulations that will stimulate new reformulations and new label designs, and masking the odor of supplements using natural flavors that truly block the bad smells that build up in the headspace of bottles.”

Eugene Ung: “Aside from the revised labeling guidelines that went into effect on January 1, 2020, clean label utilizing natural, non-GMO, organic ingredients, and minimal excipients, will continue to be popular. Sustainable packaging options are also key areas of opportunities not only for brands to differentiate themselves, but also make a positive impact on the environment. We expect (and hope) to see additional options in this area.”

Adam Ishaq: “We expect to see more and more finished-product brands using environmentally friendly packaging.”

Bart Child: “We started to see an influx in packaging requests for sustainable, eco-friendly, compostable packaging in 2019 and expect that will continue to be of interest into 2020.”

Vincent Tricarico: “As is the case with ingredients, less will be more when it comes to nutraceutical packaging and labeling trends in 2020. Clean- and simple-looking labels with a matte finish will unquestionably stand out on a product shelf. We also believe there will be a transition away from traditional bottles and more demand for gusset bags, sachets, and packets. Consumers these days tend to purchase products from companies/brands that place a priority on sustainability and reducing their footprint-even if it means spending a few extra dollars.”


Nutritional Outlook: Which are the biggest concerns your company will be keeping its eye on in 2020?


Eugene Ung: “The biggest concern might be FDA and CBD from the perspective of growth opportunities for the industry. The trade war and ‘Trump tariffs’ continue to impact many companies.”

Adam Ishaq: “As we source global ingredients, we are always concerned that tariffs or any restriction to trade may create a rapid increase in cost of raw materials which we have to pass on to our customers.”

Vincent Tricarico: “We need to keep an eye on the trade negotiations and how restrictions and plant closures in other parts of the world will impact supply. A successful manufacturing partner will have the experience to meet the needs of its customers while keeping most of the noise hidden below the surface. Additionally, many of us in the industry are anxious to see what Congress and the FDA decide to do with CBD.”

Bart Child: “We continue to monitor the regulatory landscape and are watching it closely for development of the CBD space. In addition, we are very focused on traceability of our supply chain, so much so that we have invested in employees locally based in areas like China who help us identify credible suppliers.”

Mark LeDoux: “After 30 years of supply chain disruption by China Inc., it would appear that companies that were forced to abandon their manufacturing efforts in the face of pricing pressure may be rethinking entering the supply chain.

In the absence of clear standards associated with CBD promulgated by the FDA, and political uncertainties on Capitol Hill, there are going to be some real issues in the world of commercial hemp production. I have every reason to believe that this market may be flooded with raw materials with nowhere to go in the very near future. While the FDA is unequivocal in its assertion that inclusion of CBD in foods or supplements is illegal, it may take the plaintiff’s bar and the various attorneys general in the states to rein in this marketplace.”

Tim Chiprich: “CAPTEK Softgel International will be keeping a close watch on the global raw material situation and is actively managing negotiations that work for both the raw material vendors and us as well as our clients. Due to our large scale, CAPTEK can focus on getting higher-quality raw materials at a lower price than our competition who often have to go after lower-quality raw materials that are harder to work with. Our focus is on higher-quality raw materials; traceability concerns are lessened and the ability to get the proper documentation in a timely manner is increased.”

Barri Sigvertsen: “As ever, our in-house regulatory department will be closely monitoring changes in the evolving regulatory landscape to ensure compliance at all stages of product development, from R&D through to quality control. We will also follow with interest as consumers and customers alike become more and more attuned to protecting the planet, and we will work closely with our supplier network to ensure we are able to deliver the transparency they desire.”