Ingredient suppliers confirmed that consumers are becoming more interested in eye health supplements for everyday support and not just for age-related problems.
Mintel, during a presentation at October’s Vitafoods Europe trade show, pegged eye health as a top-five ingredient category the market researcher is watching in 2022. Emma Schofield, associate director, global food science, Mintel, said, “Eye health has long been relevant to consumers, possibly more focused on age-related eye degeneration, but our increasingly virtual lives suggest new opportunities for eye health to target consumers who are concerned about the impact that screens have on their eye health.” Fast-forward to October’s SupplySide West trade show in the U.S., and ingredient suppliers confirmed that consumers are becoming more interested in eye health supplements for everyday support and not just for age-related problems.
During the COVID-19 pandemic especially, “the amount of time that you spend in front of a screen has increased tremendously, which impacts your daily life,” said Penny Woods, marketing director for Kemin Human Nutrition and Health (Des Moines, IA), at SupplySide West. “We’ve continued to see interest and growth in that area.”
While the eye health supplement market was becoming more popular particularly for infants and aging adults prior to the pandemic, two years ago there was “still a gap in the demographic” in which consumers outside of those age groups weren’t really thinking about the need for eye health nutrition, said Sara Zoet, senior expert, global communications, OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ), at SupplySide West. The pandemic changed that.
“So, take us back now to the past two years, and we are finding, especially with the upswing in digital device use, especially after COVID, there was a huge spike in how many people were not only working from home, doing school from home; I mean, everything was based online,” said Zoet. This got people thinking more about the blue light damage from digital screens on their eyesight.
“We think more and more, we’re going to keep seeing the trend that eye health is not just for the very young or the very old but for everybody in between,” Zoet said. This trend dovetails nicely with OmniActive’s ongoing Lutein for Every Age campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of eye health ingredients like lutein and zeaxanthin, including OmniActive’s Lutemax 2020 ingredient which contains lutein and the zeaxanthin isomers RR-zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin.
An ingredient like lutein has staying power. Kemin’s flagship ingredient, FloraGLO lutein, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Woods said at the show.
Even long-term ingredients like lutein have found new niches in recent years. The esports market is one of them because gamers stare at screens intensely and need support for contrast sensitivity and other aspects of visual performance. “We continue to see this space grow around the world, not just in the U.S. but outside the U.S. as well,” said Woods.
Children’s health is another promising opportunity. Here, said Woods, Kemin has a patent pending regarding children and blue and white light, “so that’s an area that we continue to explore.”
To satisfy these new consumer types, ingredient suppliers want to ensure their ingredients can work in many product types.
“In terms of innovation, I think one of the things that goes across the board is definitely deliveries,” said Zoet. “It really is something that is necessary to be able to provide different ways of delivering those types of benefits to customers.”
OmniActive Health Technologies “continues to do a lot of application work,” she said. “Lutemax 2020 is very formula-flexible. It goes into just about everything you can think of. Lutein and zeaxanthin are not always the most formula-flexible ingredients, so we have different options. We have beadleting through our OmniBead technology. We can also put it into regular softgels, capsules, and tablets but also into gummies, chews, bars, food, and beverages. Lutemax 2020 definitely gives you that formulation flexibility consumers want.”
New ingredient combinations will also push the market forward. At SupplySide West, OmniActive showcased its new Nutritears concept, a patent-pending formula for occasional dry eye containing Lutemax 2020, curcuminoids, and vitamin D3. A recently published study1 showed that the formula significantly improved the production, stability, and quality of tears “by reducing ocular surface damage and tear inflammation.”
With regular eye drops, said Zoet, “you’re really just managing symptom relief…but it’s not fixing the problem,” whereas Nutritears offers good daily support for dry eye sufferers. Deshanie Rai, PhD, FACN, vice president, global scientific and regulatory affairs at OmniActive, explained that the anti-inflammatory ingredient curcumin in the formula also helps address the problem at the source because “dry eye tends to be inflammatory in nature….Not only that, curcumin is also a potent antioxidant, a polyphenol, and again, through its antioxidant mechanisms, it helps to mitigate some of the issues associated with dry eyes.”
All in all, the eye health category looks promising long-term. Said Woods: “I think eye health is still not the number-one [supplements] category…Multivitamins and some of those are still [more] mainstream. But there are still areas where people are adding in another aspect of it…People are becoming more familiar with the impact of more screen time. Blue light [issues are] something that’s been around for a while but continues to gain awareness as people see the impact of that.”
She concluded: “We continue to see new SKUs, new product innovation, going into the marketplace, and different applications or different formats.”