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MCTs are increasingly popular among consumers and product makers, in part due to their ease of use as well as their health benefits.
Interest in medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and MCT-enriched products has grown significantly in recent years, particularly among consumers and brands in the natural products industry. Data provided to Nutritional Outlook by SPINS (Chicago, IL) indicates that MCT product sales grew by 2% in the 52 weeks leading up to November 2018, and Grand View Research predicts that the global MCT market will be worth $2.46 billion per year by 2025.1
MCTs, fatty acids commonly sourced from coconut and palm kernel oils, have come to prominence for their reputation as weight-loss supplements. Consumers are adopting MCT products for all manner of applications, using it to promote weight loss, brain health, ketosis, and more.
Why are consumers so drawn to MCTs these days? “Let’s just say, ‘Fat is back!’-and we think it is here to stay,” says Amanda Coulter, marketing manager for Abitec Corp. (Columbus, OH), a supplier who has manufactured MCTs for more than 25 years.
Coulter continues: “Numerous scientific studies have shown that consuming the right kinds of fats can not only help you lose weight and feel more energetic but also help you live a longer and healthier life…Saturated fats like MCTs have been shown to support a variety of benefits, including supporting normal cognitive requirements, sports performance, energy, satiety, and nutrient absorption. MCTs are naturally found in coconuts and palm, and the body can easily digest saturated fats for fuel to energize the brain and body.” The medical establishment has also used MCTs in cases of malnutrition and nutrition malabsorption, as MCTs are high-energy compounds that are relatively easy to metabolize.
Health benefits like these are driving renewed interest in MCTs, Coulter says. “MCTs have been around for decades, and in the last five years, there has been a lot more focus around them as a beneficial addition to your daily diet. With the comeback of the Keto Diet, which originated back in the 1920s, more companies are focusing on the ‘high-fat’ component of their nutritional products. Many manufacturers have turned to MCTs for a multitude of reasons, including the scientific evidence, proven health benefits, ease of use, and the improved functionality it brings to their products and formulations.”
MCTs also offer a relatively flat and neutral taste profile, making them ideal for use in a variety of food and supplement products. Coulter says they can be used in everything from pills, powders, and liquids to baked goods, snacks, candy, and beverages.
More companies are definitely taking advantage of the market opportunities that MCTs afford. “The MCT market is definitely growing and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon,” Coulter says. “As an MCT manufacturer, we have noticed a vast spike over the last year of nutritional companies adding MCT oil as a dietary supplement to their portfolio. The number of companies offering a bottled MCT oil on the market today is close to triple the number 18 months ago.” She also cautions formulators to select their MCT supplier carefully. Remember, she says, that “not all MCT oils are alike, and certainly the variety of sources and purity are widespread, so it’s important to know what you are getting before you make that purchase.”
With that in mind, here are just some of the trends behind the rise of the MCT market.
1. “Medium-chain triglycerides market size worth $2.46 billion by 2025.” Grand View Research. Published online July 2017. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-medium-chain-triglycerides-mct-market
MCT Health Benefits
MCT products have a wide variety of applications, from brain health to sports performance and beyond. Most notably, MCT oil has a long history as a weight-loss supplement due to its ability to induce a higher rate of fat oxidation during exercise.
One randomized, controlled-feeding crossover trial followed 19 overweight men in their 40s, with a BMI range of 27.3 to 28.3, for a period of four weeks. Participants were fed a diet rich in either MCT oil or long-chain triglyceride (LCT) oil throughout the trial. Researchers measured energy expenditure and body composition through calorimetry and MRI technology at baseline and at the end of each feeding period. The researchers found that relative to LCT oil, MCT oil supplementation resulted in a greater decrease in body weight and a greater increase in fat oxidation. MCT oil consumption also resulted in a reduction in concentrations of subcutaneous adipose tissue.2
Beyond fat loss, though, MCT oil is incorporated into sports nutrition regimens in other ways. It is often used as an endurance enhancer and immune booster, particularly during high-intensity interval training. MCT-enriched products have also long been popular in the ketogenic diet community thanks to their high-fat, high-energy composition and the fact that consuming MCT oils increases ketone concentrations.
2. St-Onge MP et al. “Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue.” International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, vol. 27 no. 12 (December 2003): 1565-1571
Finished-Product Trends in the MCT Space
MCTs are seeing incorporation in a variety of finished product formats. Bioriginal (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) launched a coconut-based ketogenic MCT powder enriched with collagen and whey in November 2018 at SupplySide West.3
“Consumers want portion packages and on-the-go solutions for this product that is becoming part of everyday lifestyles,” Bioriginal President Joe Vidal said in a press release.4 Bioriginal launched its branded ingredient InstaMCT Pro as a powder available in stick packs, and touts the product as a convenient, travel-friendly MCT oil option.
But it’s not just stick packs that are making MCTs more convenient. Brands like Wonder Fuel (La Jolla, CA) and Ethan’s (Boulder, CO) are producing MCT products such as shots and ready-to-drink beverages, giving consumers a more convenient MCT supplement that’s ideally suited for an on-the-go lifestyle.
1. Grebow J. “Keto-certified coconut MCT powders showcased at SupplySide West.” Nutritional Outlook. Published online November 2, 2018.
2. Bioriginal website. “Bioriginal launches keto-certified coconut MCT powders that combine the nutritional benefits of MCTs with the power of protein.” Published online October 24, 2018. https://www.bioriginal.com/mct-no-carbs-no-fillers-no-carriersno-problem/
The Future of MCT Products
The MCT products market is a rapidly growing new niche, one that offers a number of opportunities for innovative brands. As the MCT market continues to grow, consumers will look for convenient, travel-friendly, and clean-label options that offer the functional benefits of MCTs without any fillers. For mainstream consumers, convenience will be key. Expect consumer interest in MCT products to continue growing and diversifying into increasingly convenient and familiar product formats.