Dietary Supplement Ingredients to Watch in 2011

January 27, 2011

“Marketers tend to get very enthusiastic about what the next big ingredient will be, but if you really want to determine that, you have to first understand what benefits consumers are looking for,” says Julian Mellentin of international market analyst New Nutrition Business.

“Marketers tend to get very enthusiastic about what the next big ingredient will be, but if you really want to determine that, you have to first understand what benefits consumers are looking for,” says Julian Mellentin of international market analyst New Nutrition Business.

Last year’s top-ranking ingredients based on dollar growth, according to SPINS, reflect some of consumers’ top health concerns today: cardiovascular, cognitive, visual, digestive, immune, and bone and joint health; energy; and weight management.

Note that in today’s economy, shoppers aren’t willing to blindly risk their dollars on unproven ingredients, says Mellentin. Instead, they are opting for ingredients heavily supported by science and those they think are “tried and true,” such as a multivitamin.

“It’s easier for people to buy something that contains an ingredient they accept and for which the benefits are well known, because then they have some preexisting ideas of what it’s going to do for them,” he says.

Which ingredients are likely to fare well?

Vitamin D
Vitamin D continues to ride high with both consumers and scientists. Growing evidence supports its importance for bone health, as well as immune health, cardiovascular health, cognitive health, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and cancer. The Institute of Medicine’s November hike of dietary reference intakes furthered the attention on D.

Expect more supplements marketers to cater to the vitamin D deficient, with products offering not only higher levels of vitamin D but also a wider range of dosages. (Nature Made recently added a 2000 IU supplement to its line, and Caltrate’s new Soft Chews provide 1200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D3 in each two-chew dose. Calcium, which also shares a top position on SPINS’s ingredients list, also stands to benefit from the publicity surrounding vitamin D.)

“This year we’ve seen the launch of many new super-potency products,” says Kerry Watson, CNC, manager of the SPINS Product Library. “Supplementing with these higher potencies is, for many people, the quickest way to eliminate a deficiency.”

“Companies that want to establish themselves in relation to vitamin D are going to have to get innovating in packaging and delivery formats as quickly as possible,” advises Mellentin. He notes that companies will be challenged to stand out in this staple ingredient category. “They’ve probably got two to three years to establish some kind of market leadership and become positioned as the brand that’s the most credible source of vitamin D, before it becomes much more widely established and there’s not enough room in the market for new players.”

“The real value will come when someone can deliver a food product that gives a concentrated, very high dose of vitamin D, in a much more convenient, single-serve package format,” he adds. “That will probably be a beverage rather than a solid food, and it’s likely to be dairy- or juice-related.”

Still, he says, “This is not just a fad; this is a long-term trend. I think we’re going to see vitamin D become as well-established as vitamin C as a key nutrient for health and well-being.”

“I expect this vitamin to stay on top for quite some time,” echoes Watson. “The vitamin D trend has actually been climbing for a couple of years now, and it is obviously still going strong in both [the natural and mass-market] channels.”

Omega-3
If there’s one example of how positive science can be an ingredient’s best friend, it would be omega-3 fatty acids. In September, Frost & Sullivan predicted a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for marine- and algal-based omega-3, to reach $525 million by 2013.

The category continues to garner more support from the medical community. Acceptance may further be encouraged by emerging omega-3 pharmaceuticals.

In the long-term, increased pharma competition could put pressure on fish oil supplies, notes Baldur Hjaltason, business development and sales manager for EPAX. He’s also the new board of directors chairman for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED).

“With the success of Lovaza, many pharmaceutical companies are running clinical trials with omega-3, with the aim of getting market license in the next couple of years.” He notes that several Phase III trials are now running in the United States. “The pharmaceutical products are based on omega-3 concentrates. This means that you need large volumes of crude oil in order to make those concentrates. This huge increase in demand for crude fish oil for the pharmaceutical products will lead to price increases of crude oil and less availability for uses in other applications, such as feed and functional food.”

Yet, Steve Holtby, president and CEO of Soft-Gel Technologies Inc., points out ways supplements may have a leg up on pharmaceuticals. He says that while fish oil supplements may contain natural stabilizers and antioxidants to preserve and improve the stability of the unsaturated oil in a capsule, FDA doesn’t allow the addition of antioxidants to drugs like Lovaza, making the drug more susceptible to rancidity-which can lead to unpleasant burping. “Even though Lovaza can certainly help lower triglyceride levels, there is no clinical evidence that it is any purer or more effective than a comparable, non-prescription fish oil supplement,” he adds.

Omega-3’s allure to the drug industry stems from its growing body of science, despite some negative, and industry-criticized, high-profile studies reported this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association declaring docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) ineffective for Alzheimer’s disease and postpartum depression. Hjaltason estimates that while in 2001, there were 7894 papers in PubMed on omega-3, by 2008, the number had risen to 13,500, including 1127 randomized controlled trials and 288 meta-analyses and systematic reviews.

Strong science is the reason why, in October, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published positive opinions for six Article 13 claims for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA, says Harry Rice, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for GOED. For DHA alone, claims cover maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides, maintenance of normal brain function, and maintenance of normal vision. For EPA and DHA combined, claims pertain to maintenance of normal cardiac function, maintenance of normal blood pressure, and maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides.

In part, research is now focusing on the ideal balance-not only of omega-3 to omega-6, but also among different omega-3 fatty acids, “instead of focusing only on pure forms of EPA and DHA,” says Hjaltason.

Competition may heat up among different omega-3 sources: krill (“We believe science should be the leader in the case of krill,” says Volkan Eren, director of operations for Enzymotec), algae, chia seed, flaxseed, and soy. Consumers will learn that each source has unique benefits to offer. “So far, there has been room for everyone,” says Hjaltason. Whether that’s true in the future remains to be seen.

Whey Protein
The future looks bright for this sports-nutrition staple. In June, Global Industry Analysts pointed to rising demand in the United States and Europe, stating, “Whey has emerged to play a key role in the worldwide protein industry.”

“Proteins are in great demand because they provide nutrition benefits combined with functional benefits in specific cases,” says Leonard Mallee, global marketing manager for FrieslandCampina Domo. “Whey protein is in great demand in particular, as it is a rich source of essential amino acids, providing building blocks our body cannot make itself.”

While whey protein has been a mainstay in the athletic and infant markets, industry is looking to expand its reach. For instance, research is now focusing on its benefits for seniors with sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), says Starla Paulsen, applications department manager for Glanbia Nutritionals.

Notably, research is advancing the link between weight management and dairy protein, which may provide satiety benefits. “Studies suggest that increased dairy intake can help prevent excess adiposity (the storing of fat in connective tissue) and encourage lipogenesis (the metabolic breakdown of fat),” says Paulsen.

In November’s New England Journal of Medicine, researchers highlighted the role of dairy protein, when paired with a reduced intake of high-glycemic-index foods, in helping those who have lost weight keep the weight off. Called “Diogenes” (Diet, Obesity, and Genes), the study is said to be one of the largest randomized multinational clinical studies ever conducted on the impact of diet composition on weight management.

“Researchers continue to demonstrate the connection between higher-protein diets and healthy weight, and the results reported by the Diogenes investigators provide further evidence for that relationship,” said Greg Miller, Dairy Research Institute president.

In September, Glanbia patented Prolibra, a whey peptide ingredient said to significantly decrease fat mass while maintaining lean body mass, when taken in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet.

“Proteins play a major role in influencing satiety hormones. Typically, peptides derived from milk protein (caseinate) have shown to be the most effective. However, there are more ingredients that can play a positive role in weight management products that act synergistically,” adds Mallee. “Prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides have been shown to influence satiety hormones as well. We see good opportunities for superior product combining the strength of these different product groups.”

Exposing more consumers to whey will also require innovating to expand its inclusion in a wider range of food and beverages. In May, Carbery relaunched its Optipep line of hydrolyzed whey proteins, offering a cleaner, neutral taste ideal for sports-nutrition and beverage manufacturers.

Mallee says advancements in filtration techniques, hydrolyzing whey proteins into small peptides to ensure a good sensoric profile, are also helping to make whey proteins stable when heated for use in ultra-high-temperature beverages. The company’s latest development is isolating whey proteins directly from milk “in their purest form, without the use of chemicals or enzymes,” Mallee adds. “They are completely native and not damaged by the processing route.”

Research will also continue, thanks to the organization Food for Health Ireland (FIE). FIE has embarked on what it’s calling “intelligent milk mining” to explore the health potential of commercially viable milk bioactives.

FIE CEO Jens Bleiel says FIE’s researchers have to date produced a bank of approximately 800 milk fractions, which are being screened in bioassays. He said the current focus is primarily on proteins such as whey and hydrolysates, but that oligosaccharides and lipids are also being investigated.

Probiotics and Fiber
Probiotics are at an interesting crossroads. Although the industry endured a wave of negative health-claims news last year, statistics indicate that consumers are still increasingly drawn to probiotics. Packaged Facts estimates 12% CAGR until 2013, Frost & Sullivan predicts 10.3% CAGR until 2015, and MarketsandMarkets estimates 11.7% CAGR by 2014.

Thus far, EFSA has yet to approve a single Article 13.1 health claim for probiotics. And here at home, the FTC has struck up some regulatory worry. (“We’re watching what’s happening with the FTC and FDA very closely,” says Michael Bush, vice president of business development for Ganeden Biotech.) The agency settled its first probiotics health claims case last fall against Nestlé over the brand’s BOOST Kid Essentials probiotics beverage. In December, it also settled with Dannon on digestive-health claims.

Do these negative headlines have the potential to scare off consumers-especially considering that in the United States, the probiotics market is still fairly niche, though growing?

“As has been seen of late, inappropriate messaging can get these brands into trouble and unfortunately create the impression that there is a problem with probiotics, when in fact the problem is not with probiotics, but with the marketing.…Unfortunately, consumers will, to some extent, misinterpret the message here,” says Tim Gamble, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nutraceutix.

He continues, “Marketing claims are being denied because of a lack of substantiation, often due to poor documentation, questionable science, or simply, overzealous marketing. It gets back to something we’ve stressed for years with our customers when they bring up research. If you want to make a claim for a consumer product, then the very product that will be sold to the consumer is what should be involved in the research. Any change in formulation, potency, or even packaging can break the chain of science required for a substantiated claim.”

“The regulatory bodies have an influence on consumers and will require industry to devote more money and time on research to provide more-substantial evidence for claims,” adds S.K. Dash, PhD, founder of UAS Laboratories.

According to ingredient suppliers, the science behind probiotics is strong-and progressing. Dash notes the National Institutes of Health’s funding of the Human Microbiome Project to characterize bacteria in the human body. Probiotic benefits are well established for digestive health, with immune-health substantiation still developing. Other areas of interest include autoimmune disorders, obesity, skin health, and yeast and fungal infections,

However, Michael Shahani, director of operations for Nebraska Cultures, warns of “over-selling” the benefits of probiotics. “Other claims such as that probiotics can boost immunity, help with losing weight, help with mental clarity, etc., are tenuous at best and, in some cases, actually false. Consumers should be educated about what probiotics can and cannot do, and also be made aware that probiotics are not drugs, nor can they supplant drugs in cases where drugs are necessary….Industry should be very careful about making claims that cannot be substantiated.”

“In the rush to take advantage of the probiotic boom, it is important to maintain a responsible approach to their use,” agrees Dash.

“The industry should make every effort to educate consumers with the most recent research using the specific strains of probiotics available on the market,” says Kaori Dadgostar, PhD, technical specialist for Jarrow Formulas.

In the digestive category, fiber’s popularity will also continue to bulk up. In September, Packaged Facts forecasted sales growth to continue “indefinitely.” Mintel International and SPINS predicted that last year would be the “biggest fiber year ever,” with the highest level of consumption. Across the grocery store shelves, mainstream brands looked to make it happen.

Kellogg’s upped the fiber content of its ready-to-eat cereals in the United States and Canada, ensuring that by the end of last year, 80% of them were “at least good to excellent sources of fiber,” according to New Nutrition Business’s October Fiber for Digestive Health report. In the U.S. market, Post Cereals promoted its “natural fiber” content, and Quaker Oats introduced higher-fiber versions of its oatmeal products. And, despite the recession, the Fiber One brand grew 20% in the year preceding March of last year, making it the biggest high-fiber brand in the U.S. market-and possibly the world.

Stealth fibers and natural fiber sources, such as baobab, are all players as marketers look to increase fiber in a wide range of products. Packaged Facts predicted the novel-fiber food ingredient category to grow from an almost 5% share in 2004 to a 39% share by 2014. Supplier Nutraceuticals International calls its Baozene baobab powder extract its fastest-selling product, already increasing 30% in sales since its launch in 2009.

Products like fiber and probiotics that deliver benefits consumers can feel will continue to do well, says Mellentin: “That’s one of the reasons products in digestive health have done so well; there’s the ‘feel the benefit’ advantage. If people feel their guts are working better, they come back and buy the product again.”

A Multitude of Benefits
Multivitamins are still one of America’s favorite dietary supplements and a top performer in all retail channels. Consumers are taking a proactive approach to healthcare, starting with prevention, and are looking to cover their nutrient bases with a broad-spectrum multivitamin.

“The success of the multivitamin category, especially in a tough economy, likely stems from the fact that many consumers are striving to remain healthy in an effort to avoid unnecessary healthcare costs,” says Andrew Shao, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition. “Multivitamins offer consumers a safe and affordable means for filling nutrient gaps and maintaining health.”

One challenge with multivitamins, however, is that as a mature market, standing out can be difficult. Price points can be extremely aggressive, with private-label brands coming head to head with name brands, for instance. Still, multivitamins will continue to remain high on the list for years to come.

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