Natural Foods Merchandiser
Q&A with Todd Runestad: Supplement trends today and tomorrow

Q&A with Todd Runestad: Supplement trends today and tomorrow

Todd Runestad, supplements swami and editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and the New Hope Supply Network, talks to Natural Foods Merchandiser about current supplement trends and what's up next.


Q: The economy’s still struggling and health care’s in flux—how have these factors affected the supplements industry?  

A: Time and again, the supplements industry has proven to be recession resilient. Consumers think of supplements as an insurance plan for their health—it’s cheaper to buy a multivitamin or echinacea, now even elderberry and vitamin D, than to pay for a doctor’s visit, especially if you have limited or no health insurance.  

Q: What will propel the supplement industry's growth in 2011 and beyond?

A: Beyond economics, what drives the industry is scientific research, which leads to innovations in product formulations. Vitamin D’s latter-day success is due purely to research that exploded in 2008 and continues to this day. Also, trends and fads, such as superfruits like açaí and pomegranate, dictate supplements sales. 

Q: Which ingredients do you foresee as the next big things to hit supplements and other finished products?

A: Krill will begin to make its presence known in supplements and grab more media attention as more research gets published. With krill, the phospholipids are bound to the omega-3s, which increases absorption and bioavailability, so you get more bang for your buck. Whole Foods Market notoriously banned krill supplements due to sustainability concerns. I think this was a misguided decision because about 95 percent of krill goes to feeding farmed fish, not to humans via supplements. If Whole Foods really wants to make a meaningful statement, it should advocate against aquacultured fish. I suspect that once Whole Foods investigates the state of the krill supply and the sustainability measures that krill suppliers mandate, it will back off, leading to greater fortunes for krill.

Vitamin K2 should start appearing in bone-health formulations, especially in those for children (menaquinone-7 is the preferred form, not the shorter-chain menaquinone-4). I also like curcumin, as well as polyphenols like resveratrol. The day is nigh when the antioxidants craze will lose its luster, and then polyphenols will be the next big thing. Also, baobab, a nutritious so-called superfruit from Africa, and maqui, a purplish fruit like açaí, should hit finished products soon. We may also see the emergence of fruits like tart cherries that were overlooked during the first superfruit craze. 

Q: With probiotics becoming more shelf stable and available in many forms (food, personal care), will probiotic supplements take a hit?

A: This isn’t a case of fighting over who gets a bigger piece of pie; rather, it has become a larger pie. Supplements generally contain the most quantity, or colony-forming units, of probiotics, and dairy has traditionally been the go-to delivery system—which makes sense because probiotics began as fermented milk byproducts. However, nondairy drinks will probably be the next big thing in probiotics and, yes, a wide range of products, from oatmeal to shampoo, are also getting in on the friendly bug action. The market will decide which will be successful.  

Q: Any new or interesting delivery methods about to take hold? 

A: Probiotic straws are coming into vogue. You just stick them into any drink. The inside is lined with probiotics, which come off when the liquid passes through. I’ve also seen quick-melt tablets that dissolve on the tongue in seconds to deliver nutrients. These can be key for people who have trouble swallowing pills, such as children and the elderly.     



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