Rising interest in vitamin K2 is spanning both supplements and functional foods.
Is vitamin K2 lining up to be the next big thing? As more research supports K2’s benefits for bone and cardiovascular health, growing use is being seen not only in dietary supplements but also in functional foods. Based on the number of new global product launches containing vitamin K2 tracked by the Innova Database (www.innovadatabase.com), introductions rose by over 40% in 2010-although that increase still stems from a somewhat small, limited growth base.
According to a review of the launches highlighted by Innova Market Insights, the key focus to date has been on dietary supplements, including sports nutrition lines, with a growing range of products particularly focusing on the use of natural K2 derived from the traditional Japanese soy-based health food natto.
The United States, with its large and highly developed supplements market, has been particularly active in this area. In the United States, there has been increasing use of vitamin K2 as an additional component of bone-health supplements and vitamin D complexes. Products are also advertising their K2 content prominently: Doctor’s Best Natural Vitamin K2 MenaQ7, Life Extension’s Super Booster Softgels with Advanced K2 Complex, and Nature’s Sunshine Krill Oil with Vitamin K2, all launched in the United States last year.
Vitamin K2 is also seeing increased use in functional foods, as regulations for this sector are becoming more inclusive of the ingredient. Earlier this year, K2 was awarded U.S. Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for dairy foods, following its Novel Food approval in the European Union in 2009.
Last year even saw a cereal bar launched with vitamin K2 in the U.S. market, although it maintained a dietary supplement positioning. The bar, part of the Nature’s Life Source of Life Gold range by Nature’s Plus, is marketed as blood supporting and bone building.
This type of product had already been launched in Japan, which often tends to lead globally in terms of novel ingredient awareness and use. In 2008 in Japan, the launch of Kirin Yakult’s Lieta soybean cereal bars, emphasizing its K2 content, was recorded by Innova Market Insights. Even prior to that, some launches of natto in Japan were marketed as being rich in vitamin K2 for bone health, as exemplified by Mizkan’s Drops of Gold Natto product, launched as far back as 2006.
A growing number of natural and synthetic branded ingredients are also now appearing on the market. Branded natural vitamin K2 sources are gaining traction, such as Norway-based Nattopharma’s MenaQ7 and Danisco’s (Copenhagen) ActivK ingredient.
Synthetic lines are also being promoted, such as Kappa Bioscience’s (Oslo, Norway) synthetic form of K2 MK-7. This ingredient will also be marketed by Danisco, following an agreement between the companies announced this March. While the natural version of K2 is most suited to manufacturers wanting to focus on a natural label, the less-expensive synthetic lines may prove a better approach for developing products for mass-market use. Kappa Bioscience claims that thanks to its proprietary process, it is the first company to have developed a synthetic form of K2 MK-7 with the same full bioavailability and bioequivalence as natural vitamin K2 MK-7. With the addition of this new, very pure vitamin K2 MK-7 in its ActivK range, Danisco says it will be able to bring further opportunities to food manufacturers to expand the use of this highly functional vitamin in even more cost-effective ways.
According to LuAnn Williams, Innova Market Insight’s research manager, vitamin K2–fortified food and drink product launches are likely to ramp up in the United States, especially following the recent GRAS approval of Nattopharma’s MenaQ7 for use in dairy foods.
“Dairy is an excellent starting point,” she contends, “appearing to be well suited as a delivery system for vitamin K2 because of the strong existing links between dairy products and bone health, and the natural levels of calcium and vitamin D in many dairy lines, which can act synergistically with vitamin K. Meanwhile in Europe, work is still ongoing for a heart-health claim for vitamin K2, which will extend its potential still further if [the health claim] is granted by the European Food Safety Authority, as hoped, during 2011.”