Innovation throws calcium a bone

The big players are getting behind a new marketing push for an old nutrient

International: Some say the calcium food and beverage market has peaked, but new technology is opening formulation options. David O'Leary, commercial manager at Irish-based, seaweed-derived calcium supplier Marigot, believes calcium is in for a resurgence. The reasons? Demographically and regionally diverse dietary calcium deficiencies show no sign of abating, calcium's health benefits are moving beyond bone to weight management and skin, and ingredient-level innovation is coming on line.

"The improvement of calcium absorption is an example of how the market is progressing," O'Leary told Functional Ingredients. "Combining calcium with other Functional Ingredients such as vitamin D or probiotics/prebiotics can enhance calcium absorption. There is a move to communicate the additional benefits offered by calcium when combined with highly functional foods. And technological improvements mean calcium ingredients can go into most foods, from chocolates and cereals to yoghurt drinks, cake mixes and spreads."

Marigot is turning its attention to the food and beverage aisles, with targeted versions of its patented Aquamin ingredient. "Aquamin is expanding into all food, beverage and supplements markets globally," O'Leary said. "Calcium continues to be of interest both to food-ingredients companies and consumers. There are significant efforts to increase awareness of the importance of calcium consumption to all age groups, and to young children in particular, to promote calcium-rich food for healthy bones. Calcium is also being added by food-ingredients and producer companies. Major food companies such as Nestlé, Danone and Unilever are conducting significant advertising campaigns."

O'Leary said Marigot was focused on two or three nonsupplement sectors, around which clinical science had been commissioned. "Sports nutrition and clear beverage applications are growing markets for Aquamin with our new soluble grade."

In 2006, the percentage of food and beverage products worldwide making 'high calcium' claims dropped below three per cent for the first time this century, according to market analyst, Productscan Online. Only 2.8 per cent of products made a 'high calcium' claim last year, compared with 3.7 per cent in 2005.

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