In the dietary supplement industry nutritional enzymes are used to address digestive and systemic conditions, and are typically animal-, fungal- or plant-based. Digestive enzymes are the dominant application but systemic enzymes are growing in popularity. While bromelain and papain have long been used in wound healing, recent research indicates that certain systemic enzymes may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
An estimated 54 million American adults suffer from heartburn, according to the National Heartburn Alliance. Factor in an aging baby-boomer population seeking alternatives to prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications and you have all the ingredients necessary for strong sales growth of nutritional enzymes.
Market Data & Trends
According to a recent study from the Business Communications Company, Norwalk, CT, total worldwide sales of environmental biotechnology products (microorganisms, enzymes, microbial blends and nutrients) for U.S. manufacturers are currently estimated at just over $103 million. The market is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 8% to reach $154 million by 2006.
Microbial blends are expected to see the largest increase from $48 million to $75 million by 2006, posting an AAGR of 9%. Nutrients represent the second fastest growing and second largest segment, with an AAGR of nearly 9% and current sales estimated at approximately $25 million. Enzymes and microorganisms are expected to maintain a slower growth rate since these products represent more limited market potential. With current product sales of $21 million, enzymes should maintain an AAGR of 7% to reach nearly $30 million by 2006. Microorganisms on the other hand are predicted to achieve only 3% AAGR to achieve $12 million by 2006.
“Enzymes are virtually an untapped resource in terms of general health, and even sports nutrition,” said Mark Anderson, R&D director, Triarco Industries, Wayne, NJ, “because they supplement the body’s natural ability to get the most out of what you eat.”
For this reason, as well as others, Scott Davenport, marketing and communications manager for Forsyth, MO-based National Enzyme Company (NEC), feels the enzyme market is on the verge of taking off. “People continue to conduct research, and the more research we have the more we are going to sell,” she said.
Highlighting digestive enzyme blends in particular, Ms. Davenport said she has noticed huge jumps, which can be attributed to the millions of consumers that have digestive complaints. “More than 38 million Americans see a doctor for a digestive disorder and that doesn’t count those self medicating with products like Tums or Rolaids,” she said.
In terms of systemic enzymes, Ms. Davenport predicts an up tick in sales as the baby boomer population ages. “The baby boomers are getting older and looking for something to help them manage pain as they age,” she said. “They don’t want to take a lot of prescription medications which often come with side effects.”
Charles Garbarini, president, Marcor Development Corporation, Carlstadt, NJ, opines that while digestive enzymes are the larger seller of the two types, systemic enzymes are experiencing more growth. “Systemic enzymes are growing in sales over digestive enzymes,” Mr. Garbarini said. “But digestive enzymes are still the market leader due to the volume in that segment.”
Another category receiving increased attention is fibronolytic enzymes. According to Gabrielle Sill, marketing manager, Specialty Enzymes & Biochemicals, Chino, CA, these enzymes help break down fibron, which accumulates in the blood. “The same segment of the population that has issues with digestion also has issues with fibron,” she said. “We believe there are enzymes that can break this down.”
Delivering the Goods
While nutritional enzymes can impart various health benefits, they are only as effective as their delivery. Tim Gamble, vice president, sales and marketing for Redmond, WA-based Nutraceutix offered his perspective on this issue. “If we can deliver the most suitable enzymes to their optimal locations without having to compromise on the derivation or activity ranges of those enzymes, then we are all better off,” Mr. Gamble said. He added, “I believe the biggest challenge to effective supplementation with pancreatic enzymes is gastric acid bypass. There are studies that indicate that the vast majority of optimal porcine-derived pancreatic enzymes are denatured by stomach acid.” There are plant-derived pancreatic enzymes that will survive the passage through the stomach, Mr. Gamble said. However, they are not as well dialed into doing their job as porcine-derived pancreatic enzymes.
A leader in controlled delivery technologies, Nutraceutix applies its pharmaceutical grade delivery technology to its probiotics and enzymes. Its delivery technology assures the delivery of its enzymes to the stomach, so that they are nutritionally beneficial.
Other gastric bypass technologies include a pearl and enteric coating. A pearl is a multi-layered product that requires numerous manufacturing processes. Enteric coating requires a great deal of quality control and a blister pack—another manufacturing step and expense that is passed along to the end consumer.
“Our BIO-tract involves a simple manufacturing process and avoids the costs and complications of coatings,” Mr. Gamble said. “It is relatively inexpensive to produce and, unlike coated products, does not require special packaging or handling.” He added, “BIO-tract’s design allows for gastric acid bypass even if tablets are cut in half by the consumer, which is something coated products can not achieve.”
Enzyme delivery is also a focus for Triarco. According to Mr. Anderson, the company is hard at work to create a technology for enzymes to get past the stomach to do their work effectively.
As understanding of the delivery issue for enzymes grows, it is likely to become a prominent topic in the industry. “I think it’s fair to say that there is still a lack of consumer and retailer education related to the effective delivery of supplements,” Mr. Gamble said. “There are many supplements out there that are delivered so poorly that much, if not all, of the active ingredient is wasted. This problem applies to a variety of ingredients—not just biologicals.” He added, “Of course, problems create opportunities. As a result, we have developed patented and patent-pending production and delivery technologies that optimize the delivery of suitable ingredients, enzymes included, to the body.”
On the Horizon
As with most dietary supplements, continuing research and development will play a key role in the growth and use of enzymes.
“The whole field of enzymology is evolving and moving ahead rapidly because companies are doing a good deal of work to produce new enzymes that can operate under a variety of conditions that in the past were not as conducive to using an enzyme,” Marcor’s Mr. Garbarini said.
Marcor is currently funding a study overseas on Marcosanol an anti-cholesterol product. “The study has demonstrated the efficacy of the material and we are continuing to fund further research,” Mr. Garbarini offered.
Another enzyme under the microscope is nattokinase, which comes from soy fermentation. Preliminary research has shown this enzyme acts in the bloodstream to dissolve or possibly prevent the formation of blood clots. Mr. Garbarini says there is a growing interest in this specific product, but the market remains relatively small at this point.
Speaking of other new findings, a study published in Plastic Reconstructive Surgery last July showed that a proteolytic enzyme demonstrated significant results in wound-healing time in 77% of normal, healthy subjects.
According to Peter Moodie, director of sales and marketing, Enzyme Development Corporation, New York, NY, the new regulatory strategy recently unveiled by FDA with regard to the implementation and enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) will have a significant impact on the enzyme field because companies will be forced to do more research on their products. Mr. Moodie says this research, combined with stiffer FDA regulations, could help the nutritional enzyme market gain inroads with the medical community.
“As far as we are concerned, what holds the biggest promise are the new regulations from the FDA for the simple reason that they are going to require companies to actually have in their products what they claim on the label,” Mr. Moodie said. “Furthermore, companies will be more inclined to do the research if they can be assured there will be no ‘knock off’ products charging one-tenth what another product costs and contains nothing of value in the finished product.”
Specialty Enzymes’ Ms. Sill also believes the medical community must become more involved. “Doctors are often not willing to think outside of their own world. It would be great if doctors would try working with enzymes more than they do because there is no damage that can be done and there might be a great deal of value in them,” she said, adding, “In the future, I see research on enzymes becoming more widely acknowledged by the medical field.”
Another issue is education, according to NEC’s Ms. Davenport, who said the only way to let consumers know about the alternatives available to prescription drugs is through education. “I think right now the general public is still turning to prescriptions,” she said. “But they are turning over their shoulder and seeing alternatives with no side effects.”
To help educate consumers, NEC created a website called EnzymeUniversity.com. “I think with the right amount of research consumers will be more open,” Ms. Davenport said. “Look at vitamins. When they were first discovered doctors were actually against taking them because there was not a lot of research behind them. Now everyone takes a vitamin. The same thing will occur with enzymes but it won’t happen overnight.”
Consumers are also in need of education when it comes to digestion. “Digestive health impacts the overall health of the body,” said Triarco’s Mr. Anderson. “Healthcare professionals need to explain to patients that enzymes do in fact work and that we lose some enzyme activity as we age. In order to maintain optimal function, supplemental enzymes are a must.”
Mr. Gamble from Nutraceutix believes the future will focus on delivering biologicals past the stomach. “What I see developing is the ability to release biological payloads in a more controlled fashion,” he offered. Mr. Gamble envisions a probiotic or enzyme product that you take in the morning that releases high in the GI tract, and a probiotic or enzyme that you take at night that is designed to release low in the GI tract.
About the author:
Joseph King is a freelance writer based in Spring Hill, FL, and former editor of Whole Foods magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].