Maximizing Minerals

In some nutraceutical segments the discovery of a new ingredient can lead to rapid growth. But as most people know, the discovery of a new mineral is highly unlikely. That is why companies are not working on discovering new minerals but rather new mineral forms that will be more efficient.

Efficiency is important to both manufacturers and consumers. Companies continue to improve their manufacturing processes by using certain mineral forms, while consumers seek out mineral forms that will be used most efficiently by their bodies. In fact, consumers have become so savvy that they have even started asking complicated questions about bioavailability. Discovering and researching the best forms of minerals will drive the market into steady growth over the next several years.

Mineral Market Developments
According to Euromonitor International, Chicago, IL, consumers around the globe spent nearly $2 billion on mineral supplements last year. Euromonitor’s analysts believe that mineral supplements are well established because of the clearly perceived benefits, particularly to counter deficiencies caused by illness or diet. Consumers also trust the efficacy, as minerals have not been hit by the same negative media attention that decimated St. John’s Wort sales, for example. Iron is one of the most popular supplements, however, greater consumer awareness of the range of supplements available and their benefits is an important growth factor.

In terms of leading markets, the U.S. dominates, spending $724 million in 2004, putting it far ahead of other markets like Japan ($234 million), Germany ($137 million) and Italy ($168 million). Euromonitor analysts say the fast-growing mineral supplement markets in 2004 were Turkey, Argentina, Russia and Italy. Of these, only Italy represented a significant portion of global sales. Mineral supplements were a key driver of the Italian market, particularly because of the downturn of many herbal supplements. Euromonitor forecasts the global market for mineral supplements to perform strongly over the next five years at a growth rate of over 4% to reach a global market size of $2.4 billion by 2009.

The functional foods segment represents another opportunity for minerals. Many companies have been involved in functional foods from a fortification perspective for several years. However, the functional foods market is expected to experience another growth phase in which minerals will play a major role. Euromonitor claims the functional foods market has not yet hit its peak, but when it does it will likely cut into dietary supplement sales. However, the success of the new generation of functional foods will be dependent upon positioning, according to Adrienne Crossley, global OTC and VDS account manager for Euromonitor. “Products fortified with vitamins and minerals are not usually positioned clinically, or specifically targeted at a group of people with a specific illness,” she said. “Instead, they are generally marketed as products that improve the broad well-being of the average person. This is why they have gained a large consumer base.”

Some of the more recent challenges in the market relate to regulatory uncertainty, especially in the U.S. with the impending GMPs and in the EU with the Food Supplements Directive. With respect to the latter, Brent Hagen, vice president of technical services, Kelatron, Ogden, UT, commented on the impending EU Food Supplements Directive and the “positive” list. “The size of the European market for our products versus the required investment to comply with the EU’s desires makes it very difficult to operate in that marketplace. Unless you already have a proprietary position, the financial motivation to go through the appropriate hoops isn’t there,” he said. “The standard minerals might be on the ‘positive’ list but certain forms may not. For example, some of our products that sell very well in the U.S. are not on the ‘positive’ list in the EU, so we have to decide how many of our products that are not on the list that we can afford to bring to market there.”

As this issue went to press, a key figure in the EU voiced his opinion in opposition of the EU Food Supplements Directive and the positive list. Following a challenge in the European Courts of Justice (ECJ) brought by the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), which effectively proposed to ban 75% of vitamin and mineral forms, Advocate General Geelhoed, the senior adviser to the ECJ, gave his opinion in favor of the Alliance’s case. In short, this means the chances of consumers being able to continue using the natural food supplements they believe are beneficial to their health are now greatly increased.

In a statement released on April 5th, the Advocate General concluded that the Food Supplements Directive infringes the principle of proportionality because basic principles of community law, such as the requirements of legal protection, of legal certainty and of sound administration have not properly been taken into account. He said it is therefore invalid under EU law. It should be stressed that the Advocate General’s pronouncement is not a ruling. That will likely come later—around June—from the ECJ judges. But typically, in the vast majority of cases, the court judgment follows the recommendations of the Advocate General. If the Advocate General’s recommendations are adopted, in effect, the ban on vitamin and mineral forms not included on the EU’s positive list, due to come into effect on August 1, 2005, will be declared illegal.

There is also a lot of attention being paid to the impending dietary supplement GMPs. Jerry Cohen, industry manager, Nutritional & Pharmaceutical, Gallard-Schlesinger Industries, Plainview, NY explained, “Additional increase in quality expectations have to be covered during production, which requires a producer to look into new raw materials and improve the conditions of manufacturing. It is expected that most mineral salt producers will change their production to fulfill strict GMP guidelines and traceability throughout production. Producers have to follow this trend and provide more reliable information on their raw materials, production means and parameters, like additional monitoring programs on mycotoxins, pesticides and dioxins.”

Increasing Awareness will Drive Minerals in New Directions
Mineral research continues to evolve. From that will come a host of indications that can be communicated to the consumer. Speaking to this was Linda Douglas, PhD, RD, scientific affairs manager, GTC Nutrition, Golden, CO, who said minerals today are seen in a more comprehensive light. “In previous years, people understood minerals in a narrow way. Now, consumers are embracing mineral nutrition in more broadly defined terms,” she said, adding, “For example, consumers don’t just take calcium for bones. They now take calcium for bone health and for weight maintenance. In the future, they may also be taking it for a number of other reasons, including colon health and the maintenance of healthy blood pressure. This story will, in all likelihood, repeat itself with other nutrients as the science continues to unfold.”

With new health benefits being uncovered, consumer awareness will have to catch up. Gallard-Schlesinger’s Mr. Cohen offered a sense of where he thinks awareness is at and where it is going. “Consumer awareness for well-accepted minerals like calcium and iron are high, but other minerals like magnesium and potassium are only discussed for special food products and nutritional needs like sports nutrition or weight reduction programs,” he said. “Smaller minerals like zinc and selenium are accepted in the dietary supplement field but broad attention in fortification is not given.”

Casper Ravesteijn, market manager, Health & Nutrition, Purac America, Lincolnshire, IL, said there has been a marked increase in the awareness of bioavailability. “According to the latest Health & Wellness Trends report from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), 81% of consumers feel they need to take vitamins and minerals,” Mr. Ravesteijn said. “This is a result of consumers becoming increasingly educated when it comes to linking minerals to health. Along with that, consumers are really becoming more concerned with effectiveness and bioavailability.”

Going into further detail about bioavailability was Bill Levi, business director, Ingredients, Nutrition 21, Purchase, NY. “With regard to bioavailability and absorption both consumers and manufacturers are realizing that form does matter and that one proprietary compound or chelate can be very different from another in terms of what is delivered and assimilated,” he said, adding, “Another issue is dosage. It is a challenge to deliver meaningful levels of minerals (a particular challenge with macrominerals) in a nutritional bar or beverage, so that its inclusion is not just ‘window dressing.’ GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status is an issue too. Sometimes manufacturers find themselves in a jam when they find out that the trace mineral compound they are using in their functional product has not been GRAS affirmed.”

Mind the Gap
Although the minerals market remains steadily profitable and awareness is high, nutrient gaps still exist, especially in developing countries. In fact, iron deficiency is still a widespread problem, along with zinc and magnesium deficiency. Kelatron’s Mr. Hagen explained, “There is a lot of interest surrounding iron and zinc because of the huge deficiency issues, so there continues to be a lot of research devoted to these two minerals.” In fact, Mr. Hagen believes that where the large-scale deficiencies exist some of the better research is being conducted to support what mineral forms are most bioavailable and what forms are going to have the best effect for a particular population of people. “In a lot of cases the work being done in developing countries is driving a lot of the technology,” he said.

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of benefit recognition when it comes to iron, especially when it comes to children. To that end, parents are intent on making sure their kids consume more iron. Stonyfield Farm heeded that call just last year when it launched an iron-fortified yogurt offering 45% of the RDI for iron. This was a first in the yogurt arena.

In terms of zinc deficiency specifically, a recent study presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in April discussed zinc deficiency in adolescents. In the study, 209 seventh graders, 111 girls and 98 boys, consumed 4 ounces of fruit juice containing 0, 10 or 20 mg of zinc gluconate each school day for 10-12 weeks. Students, their parents and teachers did not know who was receiving which, if any, zinc supplementation until the study was completed. At the beginning and the end of the study, students performed a battery of tasks designed to measure mental and motor skills, like attention, memory, problem-solving and hand-eye coordination. Adolescents who drank orange juice packed with 20 mg of zinc performed better on memory and attention exercises compared to those whose diet was not supplemented and youngsters who received the recommended 10 mg per day. Researchers noted zinc deficiency is not uncommon, even in the U.S., but that the risk could be particularly high in adolescents because they are undergoing rapid growth and often have poor eating habits.

Sometimes referred to as the forgotten nutrient, magnesium will likely receive more attention in the future. This is because more than 70% of the U.S. population does not get sufficient magnesium in their diet, according to Barbara Heidolph, market development manager, Astaris LLC, St. Louis, MO. According to experts, the deficiency rate is high because the amount of magnesium required in the diet is relatively high, while the actual content in the diet remains very low.

“Magnesium supplementation makes a lot of sense because there are so many conditions that result from magnesium deficiency,” Mr. Hagen said. “Calcium gets all of the publicity, along with iron because of anemia, but magnesium should be right up there. There is so much benefit that can come from this nutrient.”

Just last year magnesium became the headline ingredient in Danone’s new fermented dairy drink called Zen. Each 100-gram bottle—a highly distinctive spherical shape that is itself an innovation and a world first—delivers a 90 mg dose of magnesium, equivalent to 30% of the RDI. The product label discusses the benefits of magnesium for relaxation.

Along with magnesium, Ms. Heidolph discussed other minerals she feels must become part of fortification profiles. “There are several reasons to incorporate calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in many formulations,” she said. “Calcium continues to be promoted for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis. And new research has highlighted its role in preventing hypertension and maintaining weight (International Dairy Foods Association-IDFA).” She added, “Magnesium is synergistic with calcium for bone health. But the recent focus on magnesium relates to its heart health benefits. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) is considering recommending that drinking water be fortified with magnesium in order to reduce the number of heart attack deaths related to magnesium deficiency.”

Ms. Heidolph also highlighted phosphorus as an often-overlooked mineral. “Although generally there is a significant level of phosphorus in our diet it is important to consider that much of it is not bioavailable,” she said. “Recent research by Dr. Robert Heaney indicates that in calcium fortification, at least a portion of the calcium should come from a calcium phosphate source in order to effectively maintain bone health.” She said even The International Food Additives Council has asked the FDA to modify the health claim related to calcium and osteoporosis to include phosphorus.

Going into more detail about phosphorus was Gilbert Gluck, president, Cyvex Nutrition, Irvine, CA. “There is a codependency of calcium and phosphorus to support healthy bones and soft tissues,” he said. “It has been shown that if phosphorus is not included with the increased intake of calcium, phosphorus absorption is reduced. It is suggested that phosphorus may be needed to increase the uptake of calcium by the bone, which would reduce its loss in the urine.” He also touched on magnesium. “Milk contains magnesium, an important mineral, which prevents bone loss due to its involvement with calcium transport,” he said. “It also works together with calcium to maintain circulatory, muscle, nerve and heart functions, and is involved in blood clotting. Magnesium is also stored in the bones as a reserve for the rest of the body.”

Sharon Rokosh, senior market development specialist, Health & Nutrition, Purac America, added her perspectives about increasing the awareness of magnesium. “We hope there will be more attention paid to the synergistic effect of calcium and magnesium for bone health because we see an opportunity to open up a field of education. We need companies to explore key ingredients beyond calcium needed for building even stronger bones,” she said. “By aligning magnesium with calcium in a formulation there is opportunity to capitalize on the awareness calcium has already generated and educate consumers about magnesium at the same time.”

Howard Simon, president, American Ingredients, Anaheim, CA, brought up an interesting point about trace minerals. As a group, he said, they should be at the top of everyone’s list. “This is, at least partially, a consequence of an ironic polarization of dietary patterns in America today. At one end of the spectrum we continue to witness annual increases in the consumption of fast foods and processed convenience foods devoid of inherent essential trace mineral content,” he said. “At the opposite end, health-conscious Americans are keeping hydrated by consuming record amounts of bottled water in place of their erstwhile favorite beverage. Unfortunately, most of the water moving off the shelves is labeled as “purified”—a term ordinarily without any negative connotation. Except in this case, all of the trace minerals naturally present in our rivers, streams, lakes and wells have been systematically eliminated for the sake of purity.” He added, “While it is true that undesirable sodium, chlorine and microbes have been removed from purified water, the fact remains that water from the tap has been a meaningful and historical source of the essential trace minerals that support body function and metabolism.”

The Quest for Bioavailability & Solubility
Formulating with minerals is not an easy task and supplements usually prove easier to work with versus food and beverage systems. Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Fortitech, Schenectady, NY, explained, “There are more issues with food fortification because of the complexity associated with the food matrix. There are many more factors to take into consideration, such as the appearance of the food, as well as the taste and the texture.”

When comparing minerals to other nutrients, Sam Wright, president and CEO, The Wright Group, Crowley, LA, said there are major differences when it comes to fortification. “Mineral fortification often involves more ‘fine tuning’ compared to vitamin formulation because of the higher potencies of both macro and trace minerals,” he said. “Customers must be able to trust companies specializing in creating custom formulations, who are experienced in formulating with the proper source materials, encapsulates and overages necessary to neutralize potential adverse interactions.”

Currently, Mr. Wright says research on the benefits of antioxidants is making trace minerals (selenium, molybdenum, chromium) the choice for mineral fortification. “By triturating these minerals into lower potencies, trace minerals can be easily incorporated into foods with minimal taste impact,” he said. “The key to trace mineral incorporation is careful processing to achieve even distribution and consistent particle size.”

Working with minerals seems to be getting easier for companies as they gain more experience, but the underlying problems are still the same, according to most experts. “Finding nutrients with good bioavailability and a good taste profile is still challenging,” said Kelatron’s Mr. Hagen. “Over the last few years we have really put a lot of effort toward soluble minerals and trying to find the right ones that have good bioavailability and reasonable taste characteristics.”

He also pointed out that as companies start to mature in the industry, they are paying more attention to the manufacturability of their products, wanting them to run better and more consistently. Many companies, he said, are working with existing products to modify physical characteristics to meet those demands.

GTC’s Ms. Douglas shared some additional views on manufacturability. “Recent issues with regard to fortification of minerals continue to be maintaining stability through processing conditions and bioavailability,” she said. “Manufacturers are improving technology in order to provide the industry with minerals that can be added to a variety of applications at minimal levels without compromising the sensory profiles and enhancing nutritional benefits.”

With all of the challenges posed by minerals in terms of formulation, Gallard-Schlesinger’s Jerry Cohen said most companies are looking for easy-to-use materials, especially when it comes to solubility. “The influence on taste, flavor and texture has brought more attention to insoluble mineral sources,” he said. “The challenge is to maintain same taste profile for fortified and non-fortified food products.”

From an applications standpoint, Ms. Heidolph from Astaris said convenience continues to be a driver in the marketplace. One of the product categories of choice is beverages. “Beverages are being used to deliver bone health, heart health, immune enhancement and eye health. The orange juice aisle is a good example of this trend,” she said. “Dairy products are also getting a lot of focus due to the licensing efforts of the IDFA. Beyond the “Got Milk” campaign, there is increased awareness of dairy foods and the value of calcium in dairy foods for weight management.” She added, “Bars represent one of the easiest delivery systems to work with but I don’t think companies spend enough time optimizing the formulations. In the bar category acceptance might be a result of the power they have over beverages in terms of providing satiation.”

For the future, Mr. Wright said, “The increased use of trace mineral fortification in both mainstream functional products and nutritional supplements will continue to expand as new technologies, such as microencapsulation, offer ways to overcome reactivity and sensory issues, while preserving performance and potency.”

On the Horizon
The future seems to be full of opportunities for the minerals market. Furthering research in new indication areas will continue to offer companies the chance to put “new spins” on old minerals. Astaris’ Ms. Heidolph commented, “Awareness of the fact that minerals provide more than just bone health will increase the consumer drive for them. However, health messages must be kept simple yet scientific.”

In Mr. Hagen’s crystal ball he sees more consolidation and a continuation of research into the demonstration of benefits of these nutrients, as well as bioavailability. He also believes that food fortification will drive innovation in product applications. On the regulatory front, he said, “Ultimately the harmonization of the EU will be a good thing but right now it is still a difficult situation. There are some concerns about whether or not the EU will lead the world in some of its decisions. If so, some of the decision-making processes need improvement.”

James Komorowski, vice president of technical services and scientific affairs, Nutrition 21, also commented on regulatory issues. “Dietary supplements are under an unprecedented level of both national and international scrutiny in terms of safety, efficacy and quality,” he said. “The companies that have invested heavily in safety studies, clinical research and GMPs will be poised for success in this very turbulent regulatory environment.”

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