The bone health supplements market is large, but stagnant. Here’s how brands can get consumers excited again.

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Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 26 No. 8
Volume 26
Issue 8

Tips on how to grow the bone health supplements market from experts in the know.

© Sciepro - Stock.adobe.com

© Sciepro - Stock.adobe.com

At first glance, the bone health supplements market appears to be robust. According to SPINS (Chicago), sales of such supplements reached $302 million in the U.S. alone in the 52 weeks ending August 13, 2023. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The fact is that the bone health market isn’t growing. In fact, SPINS says sales are down about 2% since the same time last year.

Why? The bone health category is dominated by roughly three ingredients: vitamin K, vitamin D, and calcium. “The main point of interest is finding added value,” says Matevž Ambrožič, marketing and public relations director at PharmaLinea (Ljubljana, Slovenia). This can take the shape of vegan, free-from, pure, traceable, or otherwise superior versions of these ingredients, or those that can remain bioavailable and active in a range of alternative delivery formats. This is where the opportunity lies in the market, and where brands must innovate.

Until now, bone health supplements have filled the space between pharmacological approaches and non-pharmacological approaches, says Angie Rimel, marketing communications manager, North America, at Gelita (Sioux City, IA). “Some non-pharmacological approaches to preventing osteoporosis include regular physical activity, reducing alcohol intake, and quitting smoking,” she explains. This is where supplements have traditionally come in, and new ingredients like collagen peptides are attempting to reinvigorate the category.

But in order to grow, bone health supplements must find a way to excite customers with new ingredients and products. Here are just three pathways to success, from experts in the know.

Personalized Nutrition

In the supplements space, it’s not yet necessary to cater to DNA or other highly individualized personal characteristics—though that’s certainly on the distant horizon. Instead, bone health brands can meet this trend by catering to specific life stages with products designed for children, young adults, and the aging population.

“Children, for instance, express high levels of inactive osteocalcin, indicating low vitamin K status,” says Clarisse Geraci, product manager at Gnosis by Lesaffre (Marcq-en-Baroeul, France). This, she adds, can result in the inability to build bone optimally during a critical time, indicating a need for bone health products for this specific demographic.

The children’s bone health market is already booming in Asia, where parents are especially concerned about children’s growth, says Ambrožič. One example is the Chinese launch of Little Elevit in November 2022, demonstrating a branching off of the brand’s hallmark prenatal offerings to also include products for babies and toddlers focused on support for bone and teeth development.

“Knowing that up to 90% of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls before it peaks around 30, the demographic of adolescent girls and young female adults is a clear white space in the bone health market,” adds Geraci. “The more calcium a woman can bank in her younger years using vitamin K2, the better equipped she is when bone mass decreases as menopause inevitably hits.” Ambrožič points to the launch of New Chapter’s Organic Plant Calcium: Women Under 40 as just one attempt to fill this gap. Certainly, there is room for more.

Alternative Delivery Formats

According to Ambrožič, there’s additional white space in the bone health market for products in non-conventional, user-friendly formats like sprays, powders, and gummies. Indeed, proprietary Mintel GNPD data show that new supplement launches in gummy format have increased by 86.5% in the past five years. Among bone health products launched in North America, gummies (26% of the launches in the category) were almost as popular as tablets and capsules (29% each).

If you ask Stefan Lander, vice president of consumer goods group sales and marketing at Omya (Oftringen, Switzerland), brands can take this one step further by launching fortified foods that are already on consumers’ radar when it comes to boosting bone health. “Many people appreciate the whole ‘good for me’ package in food form,” he says. “If they’re looking for a product that is rich in calcium—perhaps because of a medical condition or life stage—it’s certainly worth investigating the potential to improve even traditional foodstuffs, such as plain milk, by adding beneficial ingredients.” Additionally, milk alternatives such as soy, almond, or oat milk can be made better for bones with the addition of a functional ingredient.

Beyond these “expected” fortified foods, Lander also points out that calcium carbonate can be used to fortify bread, beverages, cereals, snack bars, fine baked goods, and infant nutrition. As an added bonus, this ingredient can act as a white pigment and texturizer to give milk alternatives a more authentic dairy appearance.

New Categories and Blends

Bone health supplement brands can reinvigorate the category by taking the guesswork out for consumers, streamlining their nutrient intake across different products, and offering holistic bone health products that include several different ingredients.

“The potential of vitamin K2 MK-7 combined with other vitamins and minerals is particularly promising in this space,” says Lindsay Cole, sales and business development manager for North America at Kappa Bioscience AS (Oslo, Norway), which is part of Balchem’s Human Nutrition & Health segment. Other potential blends the companies can offer include chelated minerals alongside K2VITAL Delta, a vitamin K2 ingredient that’s microencapsulated in double-coated beadlets for stability in most environments.

Bone health brands can also bring nutraceutical support to different product categories. For example, in 2022, oral care brand Colgate partnered with Nourished, a UK-based 3D-printed personalized gummy company, to launch Nutristacks. These gummy/chew supplements contain calcium alongside other enamel-strengthening and oral health ingredients like arginine and xylitol, bridging the gap between bone health and oral health and widening the bone health nutraceutical market to include personal care shoppers. “We can confirm firsthand that we now have inquiries from personal care brands, dental clinics, and so forth, all looking to launch oral care products including calcium, vitamins D3 and K2, and more, for the support of healthy teeth,” adds Ambrožič.

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