Natural Foods Merchandiser

A spoonful of liquid makes the supplements go down

Your customers have a dream—to be granted freedom from bitter, cumbersome vitamin tablets, to wake up in the morning without the dread of swallowing a handful of pungent capsules. They long for a healthy and tasty vitamin experience. Thanks to the newest trend in your supplements aisle—liquid vitamins—their dreams may have come true.

Most people know that vitamins are good for them. For example, Swedish researchers writing in 2003 in the Journal of Nutrition found that taking a daily multivitamin can reduce heart-attack risk. And awareness of vitamins? benefits is on the rise. According to the Feb. 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, ?Approximately one-quarter of adults in the United States use multivitamins, and this prevalence may increase following the recent recommendation that all adults take a multivitamin daily.?

Liquid supplements aren?t a new concept altogether; however, an increased demand for convenience in today?s busy world combined with recent improvements in the taste of liquid supplements has contributed to their current popularity gain with shoppers.

?Consumers want quick and simple solutions to their health regimes; they don?t want to be tied to a schedule of swallowing three, four, five or more pills each day,? said Dawnn Peterson, sales and marketing manager for DrinkWell Liquiceuticals, a liquid nutritional products company based in Tempe, Ariz. According to Mark Stengler, N.D., vice president and medical director of Life Solutions Natural Products in Vista, Calif., liquid supplements allow consumers to ingest more beneficial compounds with less bulk. ?You get a lot more in a liquid because powder takes up more room and has to be compressed whereas liquid disperses into water and doesn?t use up as much space,? he said. ?One tablespoon of a liquid supplement is equivalent to three to four capsules.?

Customers also are responding to the improved taste of liquid supplements. ?Manufacturers can use several different substances to sweeten their supplements and make them more enjoyable to take, like fruit juice extracts, natural flavoring agents or fructose. Life Solutions uses Lo Han, a fruit extract commonly found in China that is 200 times sweeter than sugar, safe for diabetics and has no calories,? Stengler said. Dave Boyd, senior manager of Pure Fruit Technologies LLC, a juice-based nutritional supplement company based in Provo, Utah, agrees that consumers make taste a high priority when choosing supplements. ?There are so many liquid dietary supplements emerging now, and most companies are focusing on creating a product that tastes great. People don?t want to cringe in the morning when they take their liquid supplements, but they do want to taste what they paid for. With a capsule, you just throw it down and hope it does the job. With liquid, the experience is in the taste as well as what it does for you,? he said. Pure Fruit Technologies has doubled its sales for the past three months on its newest product, Mango-xan, an antioxidant-rich liquid supplement made from the mangosteen fruit.

While taste and convenience are important, efficacy is paramount to consumers. Most liquid supplements companies claim that liquid vitamins are more effective than solid because the body absorbs them more easily. ?Liquids require little to no?gastric breakdown, thereby ensuring that nutrients are immediately?absorbed and?available for use by the body. Tablets require the digestive system to perform a physical breakdown so that the nutrients can be released and then absorbed,? said Jim Caras, chief executive officer of Health Direct, a natural supplements company based in Costa Mesa, Calif. ?If the digestive system is not functioning properly or the tablet was not manufactured properly, it is possible for a tablet not to be fully broken down, leaving some portion of the active ingredients unavailable for use by the body.?

?The beauty of liquid nutritional supplements is that they are already in a liquid, body-ready form. No time is wasted on the breakdown of the nutrients. They are immediately absorbed into the system, regardless of age, sex or digestive health,? Peterson said. In addition, said Caras, ?Tablets and capsules have physical size limits, which can lead some manufacturers to use lower levels of active ingredients in order to keep the number of tablets or capsules a person should take to a minimum, thus disregarding efficacious levels of some or all active ingredients. Since liquids do not have this size limitation,?it is very easy for a single liquid daily dose to contain 8 grams or more of active ingredients, which enables science-based nutritional companies to create effective products based on nutrient levels shown to have benefits.?

What?s more, liquid vitamins may be the answer for those who have difficulty swallowing pills. ?Liquid nutritional supplements are fast becoming the preferred method of taking supplements, specifically for children [or] elderly individuals having trouble swallowing hard tablets or capsules and individuals who have a less-than-effective digestive system,? Caras said.

The picture isn?t necessarily all rosy, however; there are some potential limitations to liquid supplements. It can be difficult to maintain the stability of some ingredients in liquid form, and absent scientific studies, it?s hard to know if liquids really are more potent than solids. Anthony Almada, chief scientific officer of Imaginutrition, a natural products consulting company based in Laguna Niguel, Calif., warns that without suitable research and evidence, claims of higher absorbency and potency in liquid vitamins should be taken with a grain of salt. ?The perception is that liquid is better absorbed, but you can?t be sure about that until you do the proper studies, which very few companies have done,? he said. ?Water is an enemy to many different ingredients. It?s very rare to find a shelf life of a liquid that is the same as it would be for a solid. And companies don?t necessarily test the stability of each of their ingredients—some ingredients might have lost some or all of their potency by the time they reach the shelf. Just because the label says it was added at one time does not mean that it?s still there when you buy it."

Caras and Stengler agree that some ingredients are inefficient in a liquid form. ?Certain nutrients are best formulated and delivered in different ways. Some nutrients may be better delivered through?tablet, capsule?or even a wafer form, and some may be more convenient in pill form based on taste,?smell or combinations of ingredients,? Caras said. Stengler added, ?Certain substances are very hard to manufacture in a liquid form, like some herbs, minerals and mushrooms that are not designed to be water soluble.?

While there still may be room for improvement, it?s clear that health-conscious consumers are looking for an easy, appetizing and effective way to take their vitamins, and they may have found it in liquid supplements.

Christine Spehar is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colo.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 6/p. 62

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