Vision health is an investment in the future. Developing a cataract is not quite as inevitable as death and taxes, but close. According to the National Eye Institute, the total number of persons in the U.S. who have will have a cataract is estimated to rise to 30.1 million by 2020; and for those who are expected to have pseudophakia/aphakia (loss of or complete occlusion of a lens), to 9.5 million.
But that's in the future, and, like saving for retirement, taking care of your eyes is something you may think you can put off.
"We are a bit concerned that with this economic downtown that consumers would put that away," said Hiren Doshi, vice president of New Jersey-based OmniActive Health Technologies. OmniActive sells three lutein-based eye health ingredients: Lutemax Free Lutein, Lutein Esters and Lutemax 2020 which includes zeaxanthin. His concern seems well founded; sales for lutein in the combined channel declined slightly in the most recent period.
Overall, though, Doshi is upbeat.
"Essentially what is happening in the eye-health category is people are trying to move away from the fairy-dust days and toward real dosages," he said. "We have actually seen a marked growth. Based on the new product launches that we are in the middle of we see continued growth." OmniActive has a policy of cooperating with partners, putting into practice co-branding ideas put forth by public relations profession Jeff Hilton.
"The biggest emphasis is not just the trade name but the fundament education. How is the message being communicated?" Doshi said. "We are taking education very seriously. We are creating supporting materials that have reach to consumers."
Meanwhile the large-scale AREDS2 (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) being conducted by the National Eye Institute continues, with results expected sometime in 2013. The study is testing the efficacy of lutein/zeaxanthin and DHA supplements. A positive result here would undoubtedly boost the category, especially in light of the aging of the U.S. and European populations.
Chart: Vision category sales