European nutricosmetic market treads water

European nutricosmetic market treads water

Despite new product launches, the "beauty from within" nutricosmetic concept was once believed to offer huge potential for Europe's functional food, beverage and supplements sector.

Hope springs eternal for the potential offered by Europe’s market for beauty from within products. Denmark-based Lallemand Health Ingredients (LHI), for example, has just introduced a new range of yeast-based natural ingredients for supplements offering beauty benefits, called Lalmin.

Morgane Maillard, product manager at LHI, said the concept of nutricosmetics is at last beginning to take off in Western Europe."We’ve seen the major markets – Germany, UK, Italy and France – growing in the last year," she adds.

Sweden-based Biovelop recently launched the Avencare range of functional beauty ingredients derived from oats. But they’re not designed to be eaten. Instead, they’re suitable for formulating into personal care products, such as skin creams, to help stimulate collagen production. Biovelop believes consumers prefer their beauty products to be applied topically.

“The evidence is stronger on topical products," said Fredrik Bjurenvall head of business development for cosmetics at Biovelop."It may also be psychological, that we like putting things on our skin so we can feel them to the touch immediately."

Not all is rosy

Nevertheless, the "beauty from within" concept was once believed to offer huge potential for Europe's functional food, beverage and supplements sector. And when French dairy company Danone launched its ground-breaking Essensis skin-health yogurt brand in 2007, many other companies understandably thought it was the beginning of something big and took the plunge into the category, too. After all, one of the world's biggest functional food companies could hardly be wrong, could it?

In fact, it could. By the autumn of 2009, Essensis had been withdrawn from sale in France, Italy, Belgium and Spain after sales failed to match expectations.

Four years on from the launch of Essensis, and 18 months after it disappeared from store shelves altogether, many experts now believe that the European market for nutricosmetics – ingested products offering beauty benefits – has disappointed, and may struggle to take off at all.

Carrie Lennard, beauty and personal care analyst at Euromonitor International, said: "Nutricosmetics were touted as the next big thing in the beauty industry. However, the industry has arguably failed to capture the imagination of the consumer in the way manufacturers had hoped. In ultra beauty-conscious Italy, for example, uptake has been slow, with beauty supplements accounting for just a 6 percent share of the dietary supplements industry in 2009."

As for internal applications outside of supplements, Julian Mellentin, director of consultancy New Nutrition Business, said: "Consumers are a long way from being ready to believe that yogurt or juice can make their skin look better. And certainly the supermarket dairy and juice aisles don’t have the sort of ambience that women associate with the places where they buy beauty products. One day it might change."

So just what is the problem with beauty from within? The main criticism leveled at the sector is that consumers expect immediate results from products that claim to improve appearance. Lennard explained: "While many women would willingly fork out for super-premium priced anti-aging creams, the effects – albeit temporary – are usually relatively quick. Beauty pills, on the other hand, often state that their effect may not be seen for several months. Today’s consumer wants instant gratification, and visible, tangible results."

The economic crisis hasn’t helped either, according to Charmaine Holmes, senior market analyst at beverage industry experts Zenith International, who recently published a new report called The 2010 Zenith Report on Beauty Drinks. She said: "As consumers reviewed their spending on non-essential items, short-term sales fell as people sought out cheaper ways to achieve beauty and became less likely to try out products without being convinced of their efficacy prior to purchase."

"The industry was rather unfortunate with the timing of the major hype surrounding nutraceuticals for it coincided directly with the height of the recession," said Lennard."There were numerous new product launches in beauty pills and beauty foods, usually with a far higher price tag than a standard product that made no beauty-enhancing claims."

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