My old man is the poster child for this industry. He just turned 75 and, let me tell you, he looks better than Leif Ericson at 40. Sure he eats well, plays tennis damn near every day and finishes off the afternoon with the obligatory glass of red wine. When he listens to me, he makes it a pinot noir from cool climes, for higher resveratrol content.
He's got just one health problem. Blood sugar. He pricks his finger two, three times a day, measuring blood-sugar levels. His doctor recommended pharmaceuticals. I told him if he started on Glucophage, he should buy some stock in Charmin first. Didn't listen, — he went on the drug — and his blood-sugar went down into the 130s. Not quite as low as he would have liked, but he stuck with it. For seven months. And then the obligatory side effects kicked in that would've made him rich had he invested in that Charmin.
But he still didn't listen to my advice about supplements. So he accepted his doctor's prescription for Starlix. It gave him the trembles.
"After a while I said to hell with it," he told me. "I'm going to throw all my pharmaceutical drugs away and live a healthy life that my son recommends."
He started taking Julian Whitaker's Glucose Essentials (the name told him everything he needed to know), and his blood-sugar levels are the lowest they've been in five years.
"I'm very happy with the situation," he said.
The lessons in all this? Consumers are looking for side-effect-free solutions to specific health problems. Supplements work. Suppliers and manufacturers — researchers and marketers — can work together to provide successful products.
We can help. In this, Functional Ingredients' third annual condition-specific ingredients guide, we offer you the leading raw material ingredient suppliers, selling to the specific health conditions consumers want. We also give you the back story so you can understand who's who and what's what. And thanks to our partners at SPINS, we are also able to provide you with year-over-year sales information at both mainstream and natural-food stores, so you can see what's currently up and what's down, condition by condition. Finally, we're not afraid to go out on a limb and tell you which are the top ingredients we editors would recommend. Don't like our picks? Go online at www.functionalingredientsmag.com and vote for your favorite — even if it isn't ours.
Ingredients that sell conditions
To sell any food or supplement product aimed at a specific health condition, there's a gauntlet that any responsible company in this responsible regulatory era must attain: sound science; clear message and claims to consumers; sound regulatory strategy; sound nutritional basis.
"If you have those four things you have a shot for a leadership opportunity for your organization," said Guy Johnson at Johnson Nutrition Solutions. "Then you need an innovation strategy. Sometimes it's me-too but better, sometimes a fast follower, but the biggest bang for the buck is to get out ahead."
This is where marketers and researchers need to be working more closely together. Researchers can pinpoint an ingredient's efficacy for a specific health condition, and they (if not suppliers) can make sure proper dosage levels are used (don't forget to test it in the food or beverage matrix!). Marketers need to deliver that message — in a way that doesn't piss off the regulators.
"Consumers are asking the marketers of these products to sort things out for them, rather than having to know the science about each and every potentially beneficial ingredient or combination," advises Rudi E Moerck, president and CEO of Valensa.
"At the same time, they want to know that the ingredient or combination of ingredients that they are choosing are the absolute best ones for a specific condition."
Hot health conditions
As long as the Great Recession lingers, products touted to help with depression, stress and mood are probably top of mind. And as long as health-care costs continue their upward spiral, particularly coupled with the economic downturn, general wellness and immunity products should sell well. And as long as baby boomers continue to age, well, what's not to like?
"While ingredients in the more traditional categories, such as bone and heart health, are steady, there are some categories in our industry that are continuing to show significant growth," said Paul Faganel, president of Embria Health Sciences. "Expanded delivery systems for beverage shots continue to grow substantially, as does the digestive-health category with pre- and probiotic ingredients gaining in popularity. Some purchases may be mandated by digestive intolerance in the cases of dairy- or gluten-free products. New concerns about sweeteners or sodium levels have others looking at nutritional content."
We thought it might be worthwhile to check out what supplier giant Cargill considers important trends. Ron Perko, director of sales for Cargill's Health & Nutrition business unit, said they are focusing on six health platforms: weight, heart, digestive, GI, cognitive, bone and joint.
To support that effort, Cargill is maintaining its CoroWise brand cholesterol cutter, and is investing and marketing heavily in sugar-free, reduced-fat coatings; whole grains and fiber; and alternative sweeteners and sweetener systems such as its TruVia brand Reb-A and Zerose brand erythritol.
Sugar-free and reduced-sugar offerings can fall into both the weigh- management and diabetes health conditions. Stevia is clearly gaining consumer acceptance as a bona fide natural zero-cal sweetener.
"Stevia sales have exploded," said Greg Horn, senior director of health and wellness at Wild Inc. "It's estimated at $500 million now, and could be $10 billion in a few years as we get past some taste issues. TruVia went from zero to the third best-selling tabletop — it's been very impressive in a short time."
Other categories that continue to spring eternal include keeping up appearances and anti-aging, as well as energy. "Just walk into a GNC or Vitamin Shoppe and see what's driving the store," said Tom Aarts, principal at Nutrition Capital Network. "The coin of the realm in this sector is the newest ingredient."
|The top conditions:|
|Cardiovascular Health||Eye Health||Sleep and Stress|
|Cognitive and Mood||Immunity||Weight Management|
|Diabetes||Joint Health||Women's Health|