China to outsell US nutraceutical ingredients within a 'few years'

Serving a health foods industry worth nearly $200 billion, popular nutrients such as soy and omega-3s will help the food and supplements ingredients market grow by 5.8 per cent annually until 2010, when demand will be worth $15.5 billion, according to new research from Ohio-based analyst The Freedonia Group.

"However, because of outsourcing trends," Freedonia stated, "the US will relinquish its longstanding top position in the global production of nutraceutical ingredients to China within the next few years."

The report marked out certain sectors of the ingredients market for robust growth due to "broad applications and strong clinical evidence of health benefits and safety." These included: soy proteins, lutein, lycopene, omega-3s, probiotics and sterol esters, calcium and magnesium, garlic, green tea, chondroitin and glucosamine, and coenzyme Q10.

"China and India will emerge as the fastest-expanding nutraceutical markets as strong economic growth allows them to upgrade and diversify food, beverage and drug production capabilities," Freedonia said. "The United States will remain the largest global consumer of nutraceutical ingredients due to the broad, increasing range of nutritional preparations and natural medicines produced domestically."

Soy proteins and isoflavones, psyllium fibres, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, lycopene, calcium and magnesium will see the fastest gains based on widely accepted health benefits and expanding applications in meal supplements and functional foods and beverages. Natural vitamin E formulations derived from non-genetically modified plants will post the strongest gains due to their acceptability to the European Union and other countries (e.g. Brazil) that ban edible compounds produced through biotechnology.

"Increasing acceptance by consumers and medical professionals will push world demand for herbal and non-herbal extracts up 6.5 per cent annually," the report added. "Conflicting clinical and scientific testing results about actual health benefits will inhibit faster gains in the overall product group. Garlic for improving cardiovascular functions, saw palmetto for benign prostatic hyperplasia, green tea for cancer prevention and weight loss, and black cohosh for post-menopausal symptoms will be among the herbs continuing to fare well in the worldwide marketplace."

Glucosamine and chondroitin would also fare well, it said, due to solid clinical backing for moderate to severe arthritis.

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