A large number of eye-health products are being introduced to the United States market, and consumer interest is tracking slightly ahead in the US over Europe, according to a research report by Frost and Sullivan.
"The US eye health ingredients market is benefiting from the consumers' need to protect their eyes through beneficial nutrition," stated the report, U.S. Eye Health Ingredients, published in November.
This is part of a larger trend away from merely trying to cure disease toward disease prevention.
About 3.3 million Americans 40 or older are affected by blindness or low vision, according to a study by the National Eye Institute. This figure is projected to reach 5.5 million by 2020. Low vision and blindness increase considerably as a person ages, particularly for those over 65. The most common eye diseases are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
This spells opportunities for such eye-health ingredients as lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, bilberry extract and astaxanthin – and Frost & Sullivan considers the US market for such ingredients largely "untapped."
Even for a well-established ingredient like lutein, the analysts predict a volume growth rate of close to 6 per cent. Zeaxanthin is advancing at nearly a 9 per cent growth rate. An ingredient like beta-carotene may not fare quite so well, however, with a restrained demand of close to 5 per cent. This they attribute to recent studies that have shown harmful affects of high doses of beta-carotene among smokers.
In 2008, the total US eye-health ingredients market was worth $138.0 million, with an annual growth rate of 5 per cent. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2008 to 2015 is estimated to be 5.3 per cent.
Forecasts for the eye health ingredients market indicate continued growth for the market until 2015.
An extremely "price-sensitive" market
Drought caused prices of bilberry extract to rise drastically between 2005 and 2008, at a compounded annual growth rate of 6.9 per cent. This is just one example of how unpredictable changes in climate, or social, economic or political factors can affect raw material prices, which in turn affect eye-health product profit margins.
"The market for eye health products is extremely price sensitive, due to the high rate of substitution among the ingredients within this market," the report said. "Lutein is the only ingredient that has firmly established itself as an eye-health supplement. Other ingredients, such as astaxanthin and bilberry extract, are still emerging … and are being threatened by reduced margins in a bid to offer competitive pricing."
The average price of lutein is expected to fall at a negative compound annual growth rate of 2.2 per cent from 2008 to 2015, due to the entry of Asian suppliers. The price of zeaxanthin is also anticipated to slightly decline at a negative CAGR of 1.4 per cent, due to increasing competition and availability of raw material (marigold) supply, from 2008 to 2015, the report said. "Overall, the US eye health ingredients market is likely to face a mild decline in price at a negative CAGR of 0.5 per cent from 2008 to 2015. Hence, this factor is likely to act as a very low-impact restraint on the market during the forecast period."
A recent fermentation process discovery by Microbia Ltd could lower prices in 2010 for lycopene, thus opening up the market for this ingredient and other caratenoids. By utilizing proprietary metabolic engineering capabilities, the company developed microbial strains of lycopene that produce commercially significant levels via fermentation—well in excess of five grams per liter. "We are already at a substantial cost advantage over many traditional manufacturing processes, and we will continue to aggressively pursue even higher yields and production rates. Moreover, there are over 600 carotenoids found in nature, and we are confident that our technology can be tuned to make any number of them cost effectively," said Marcus Lovell Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Microbia.
For more on the eye-health sector, see Functional Ingredients Condition Specific Guide.